PSU Moving Forward

March 26th, 2014 by Tim

State of the University Address
President Sara Jayne Steen
Plymouth State University
26 March 2014

Welcome to the State of the University Address. Thank you for being here. Joining our faculty and staff today are a representative of Senator Shaheen, the District 1 member of the New Hampshire Executive Council, members of the Grafton County Commission, members of the Plymouth Select Board and the town administrator, the executive directors of the Plymouth Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Grafton County Economic Development Council, members of the Student Senate Executive Board, our undergraduate and graduate student representatives to the University System Student Board, current and former trustees of the University System of New Hampshire, and members of the PSU President’s Council. Others will be joining us electronically.

Those of you who attended this address two years ago may remember my remarking on the unseasonably warm, sunny weather and the students playing guitar and studying on the alumni green. As I was writing today’s address, the snow was blowing horizontally—again. I asked a friend who is a winter hiker why so many of us live in and love central New Hampshire, expecting her to say “For awesome winters like this.” Instead, she said wryly, “Because there is not enough room for us in warmer climates.” Winter weariness aside, our continued affection might be attributed to a vibrant intellectual community, wonderful host towns, and the visual beauty and four-season opportunities of the extraordinary Lakes Region and White Mountains.

Today’s higher education landscape is shifting, and the changes are coming from multiple directions—not a perfect storm, but a confluence of challenges and opportunities for institutions like PSU that are nimble enough to make significant decisions focused in mission and the ability to innovate.

What is that mission?  PSU is a respected public regional comprehensive university, providing accessible and affordable academic excellence and regional impact. PSU faculty members are committed to the strong teaching and mentoring for which Plymouth State is known; it’s what students deserve, and it’s why faculty and staff choose to be here. PSU offers outstanding undergraduate and graduate programs in selected fields, not being all things to all people but doing what we do very well. That means hands-on learning with exciting research and creative opportunities that often involve service and engagement with our wider communities, offering students experiences that set them apart and advance the quality of life within the region. The region should be better for PSU’s presence.

The challenges in higher education are significant. The projected decline in high school graduates in New England over the coming years is intensifying competition and increasing the importance of communication and of providing education to students from areas of the nation and world with different, even reverse demographics. Internationalization and diversity also enhance educational quality and help PSU better prepare all students for the global marketplace.

Some people speak of the “unbundling” of traditional higher education, referring to the available alternatives by which people can acquire knowledge and skills. They discuss stacked badges or certificates rather than degrees, and cost-free MOOCs (or massive open online courses) and other online resources for which registration is not required. Competency-based education. Specialized corporate training.

Some of these alternatives, and others, are exciting; they offer educational opportunity to people who might not otherwise have had it and lifelong learning. If the world’s problems are to be solved, it will be through the collaboration of informed people. Technology is creating a transformation in knowledge not seen since the invention of the printing press. Let me check my phone: “Siri, search the Web for Gutenberg’s printing press.”  Instant facts.

But education is not just facts, and not all educational alternatives are the same. When I read a magazine in which a university advertises bachelor’s degrees in six months for just $2,500, I pause. Can that experience be meaningful?  Yes. Is it the same experience a student would have from PSU, in either online or residential courses?   No, it isn’t. And the differences in access and experience among the increasingly varied educational options have more far-reaching implications for the future than we can discuss here today.

Governmental decisions affect higher education. Federal financial aid guidelines impact institutions and families struggling to meet the costs of attendance. Approximately 90 percent of PSU undergraduates receive some level of scholarships or loans; 40 percent are the first in their families to attend college.

State support for University System operations and buildings is important. I want to thank the Governor and legislature for restoring funds that helped us to freeze tuition for New Hampshire students.

Those institutions of higher education that will thrive and stay ahead of this confluence of challenges (and we have through this difficult economic time) are thinking in focused, strategic ways, with data-driven goals. Our PSU colleagues have been and are moving forward in an integrated manner now on a confluence of opportunities.

Thinking of recruitment, PSU this year has implemented a client relationship management system (CRM) for enhanced communication with students anywhere in the world, from initial inquiry through their alumni status; updated our Web and video presence to allow for faculty and student voices; and enhanced transferability in general and with New Hampshire community colleges. PSU students come from 48 states and 27 countries. There are 140 international graduate students, many in programs at least partially online, and nearly 80 international undergraduate and graduate students in Plymouth. The number is increasing. The Center for Global Engagement provides a campus home for those physically here, and newly proposed English-language courses will further equip international students for success.

To increase access and affordability, PSU last year offered 17,000 credit hours through online and hybrid courses, the latter of which blend online and face-to-face learning. Using interactive methods, faculty members observe how students learn, and they create online communities. Graduate programs in education and business and four undergraduate programs are fully online, and PSU online students study with the same dedicated faculty as if students were physically here. Online courses allow PSU to reach out to non-traditional students of all ages, for lifelong learning. For residential students, the ability to take courses online also means getting ahead, being able to work a job without falling behind, and improving their time to earn their degree.

We are, however, not becoming an online university, and residential campuses are not going away. As online learning becomes better, and it is, the residential experience can be even more exciting, with added value. Faculty members employ new technologies effectively and then make even more creative use of time together. Students are doing innovative hands-on projects bringing together theory and practice, giving students real-world experience and creating resumés that enhance employability. Students learn how to innovate, collaborate, and serve. The Student Showcase of Excellence featuring original student research will be held next month. I hope that many of you will attend.

Last year, over 800 students participated in a capstone or internship experience that helped them move from the undergraduate to the professional world, and the National Study of Student Engagement reports that PSU students have professional experiences at a higher rate than their peers (94 percent to 86 percent): these are pathways of career development. This year PSU, in partnership with Granite United Way, hired an academic service learning coordinator; currently, over 560 course sections involve service learning. The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning provides resources and strategies that help faculty promote student success. A year and a half ago, the Chronicle of Higher Education named PSU one of the best places in the country to teach, based on educational innovation and that commitment to student success; and current task forces are examining both student success and the first-year experience. Career Services is developing peer advisors and alumni mentoring networks.

As students enter PSU, they increasingly bring transfer credits, certificates, and online or competency-based credits from varied sources. This year PSU added Degree Works, a powerful advising tool sophisticated enough to answer the “what if” questions about academic choices, freeing faculty and staff to focus more on students’ individual situations and career development. And the CARE early alert system allows staff and student colleagues to let the appropriate people know that someone in the PSU community may need support.

At the same time, PSU is enhancing its niche, because distinctiveness matters. We have welcoming host towns, a beautiful campus, high-quality teaching and learning, and a strong sense of community and engagement. To that, however, we add selected, high-quality liberal arts and professional programs that we can celebrate, as we celebrate our incredible location in the Lakes Region and White Mountains—a natural lab for living and learning.

Regional impact is part of PSU’s mission and how well we achieve it is part of our distinctiveness. As Executive Director of University Relations Steve Barba often says, PSU is higher education with its feet on the ground. There are many comprehensive universities, even in New England, and those that best succeed will be those valued by their region and working in partnership with it. Over half of our undergraduates (57 percent) are from New Hampshire. We want New Hampshire families, businesses, and state government to be proud of what PSU brings. Thanks to our students, faculty, and staff, they have been reaching out.

National data confirm that higher education contributes to economic health, and a recent report by professor Dan Lee (College of Business Administration and Center for Rural Partnerships) on economic trends suggests it locally as well. Higher education attracts educated employees and students, offers arts and cultural outreach, and creates opportunities. MOOCs don’t play this role. And we at PSU are fortunate in our partners.

For example, PSU has joined with the Mount Washington Observatory in hiring professor Eric Kelsey (Atmospheric Science and Chemistry), who now is leading students in research using Observatory data. The Center for the Environment last week hosted the New Hampshire Water and Watershed Conference with many partners, to do together for New Hampshire what none of us can do alone. On the initiative of professor Katharine Harrington (Languages and Linguistics), the Center for Rural Partnerships, the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, and PSU students studying French created a Tourism Development toolkit, making northern New Hampshire friendlier to Québécois visitors and giving students real experience. The Friends of the Pemi brings various branches of local and state government and the Plymouth Rotary and Regional Chamber of Commerce together with PSU students who are employing their research to enhance Livermore Falls as a new state park.

It’s easy to see where the Museum of the White Mountains fits into this aspect of PSU’s mission. The museum, opened just over a year ago, preserves and promotes the history, culture, and environmental legacy of this region, allowing PSU to protect a heritage that easily could slip away. The museum draws new audiences to PSU and the region, reflecting international interest in the Whites, has attracted private funding, and increasingly will provide opportunities for students and faculty in research and teaching. Students are learning museum and collections skills, and currently there are nine faculty affiliates. Last spring a Museum of the White Mountains program at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston drew a paying audience of 600 patrons. A new exhibit, Beyond Granite:  the Geology of Adventure, opened yesterday; its initial video had over 10,000 advance viewings.

The Enterprise Center at Plymouth, a business incubator and accelerator developed in partnership with the Grafton County Economic Development Council, had its grand opening in October. The project was funded by federal, regional, state, and private dollars, and the building is owned by the council, with programming provided by PSU. Companies in the incubator are growing and have created seven new jobs. The anchor tenant, Narrative 1, was founded by a PSU alum. Eighteen students have had internships, assisting companies with graphic design, marketing, computer engineering, social media, and more. One workshop alone attracted 230 people from 35 area companies.

In academic programs as well, Plymouth State does market research with consideration of state and regional needs, and Provost Julie Bernier develops implementation plans. The Doctor of Education degree, for example, graduated its first class in 2012 and is allowing cohorts of educators to study and, through their research, positively impact schools across the region. Currently approximately 70 educators are in the doctoral program. Responding to New Hampshire’s need for health care professionals, PSU has added a strong nursing program, and will be improving key facilities for health and human performance, PSU’s third largest academic department.

This spring, construction is beginning on ALLWell North (for Active Living, Learning and Wellness), a significant multi-use facility that will provide much-needed large spaces for classes and research in, for example, rehabilitation and exercise fitness, as well as for athletics and recreation. This facility will provide wonderful opportunities for students and enhance PSU’s preparation of health and wellness professionals, an important STEM and allied health contribution to New Hampshire’s workforce and economy.

These initiatives sound diverse, but they are focused and based in mission. They reflect both short-term and long-term strategic thinking. When Steve Barba speaks to you about university relations or about advocacy with the state legislature, and he will, he is asking you to join in communicating the PSU mission and story. That story includes recent examples of the University’s excellence.

  • PSU has been named to the Federal Learn and Serve Honor Roll for the seventh consecutive year; and recognized by the Princeton Review as one of the most sustainable campuses in North America.
  • The student chapter of the education honor society Kappa Delta Pi was presented with a Presidential Volunteer Award from the White House for students’ commitment to literacy initiatives in the greater Plymouth area and the North Country.
  • The Educational Theatre Collaborative’s production of the original musical Marking the Moment, written by Trish Lindberg (Elementary Education and Childhood Studies) and Manuel Marquez-Sterling (emeritus, Social Science) received the Moss Hart award for outstanding theatre in New England; the musical opened the Town of Plymouth’s 250th anniversary celebration this year. And TIGER Takes on Bullying, a television show co-produced by Trish in partnership with NHPTV and based on PSU’s well-known TIGER program integrating theatre and guidance for children in the schools, received a New England Emmy and a national Telly award.
  • Kevin Lupo (senior, Meteorology) has received an American Meteorological Society scholarship and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hollings Scholarship and held an internship at the National Weather Service in Juneau, Alaska.
  • Lourdes Avilés (Meteorology) received the Atmospheric Science Librarians International award for her book Taken by Storm 1938: A Social and Meteorological History of the Great New England Hurricane, as the best book of 2013 relating to historical meteorology/ climatology/ or atmospheric sciences.
  • Annette Holba (Communications and Media Studies) received the Everett Lee Hunt Book Award from the Eastern Communication Association for her co-authored book An Overture to Philosophy of Communication: The Carrier of Meaning.
  • Jonathan Santore (Music, Theatre and Dance) received the American Prize in Composition for choral music. Much of his submitted work for this national award was performed by the New Hampshire Master Chorale, for which he serves as composer in residence.
  • Dan Perkins (Music, Theatre, and Dance) was invited to conduct the PSU Choirs and others at New York’s Carnegie Hall this Easter Sunday.
  • In Athletics, women’s basketball coach Liz Stich was honored as a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame; the Eastern College Athletic Conference presented Ali Keith ’13 (Childhood Studies) with an Award of Valor as an inspiring student-athlete; Josh Morgan (Criminal Justice) won the Nason Award for Senior Achievement from the New England Football Writers Association, in his case for outstanding athletic performance while also battling cancer; and alpine skier Max Martin (sophomore, Management) became the first student-athlete in school history to compete at the NCAA Skiing Championships, racing against the nation’s top skiers, some with World Cup and Olympic experience.

These are only samples among many achievements. As the NEASC accreditation team who visited campus this fall said, PSU is moving forward with energy and has a wonderful story to tell.

There are specific areas on which we must focus in the upcoming year.

The first is enrollment. PSU has over 7,000 students now, approximately 4,500 undergraduates and 2,500 graduate students. PSU saw significant growth, especially in graduate students, early in the past decade and continued to have slow, solid growth, from approximately 5,500 students (3,800 undergraduates) to over 7,000 students, growth of over 30 percent. We welcomed those students and also substantially increased financial aid in a difficult economy to enable them to continue their education, as public institutions should.

When the state legislature in 2011 nearly cut in half the University System appropriation, PSU was forced to make difficult reductions of $6.5 million, limiting flexibility and implementation of strategic initiatives. Last year, like many schools, we saw a predicted decline of approximately 290 full-time equivalent students (which is the budgetary way of describing students) and a modest decline of 50 this year. That means that smaller classes are moving forward as larger classes are graduating. As Vice President for Finance and Administration Steve Taksar says, PSU manages conservatively, which is a strength that has served the University well. Initiatives undertaken over the past several years have every indication of success—this spring, for example, PSU saw increases in out-of-state undergraduate enrollment—but they need time. As a result, I am asking the campus to adjust expenses by under 2 percent, or $2 million on a $120 million operating budget, so that PSU can continue to meet its goals of careful financial management and also have a pool to invest for the longer term in people, facilities, and initiatives. Please understand:  PSU is solid and financially stable, and we are continuing PSU’s long-standing commitment to careful planning by engaging in reallocations that reflect what is important now for PSU’s future. Those of you on campus will have an opportunity to participate in discussions and bring your thinking and creativity to bear.

Enrollment, finally, belongs to us all, not just Admissions; excellence and student success and the ability to communicate those achievements are key.

Marketing and identity branding, then, are another focus for the year. Many of you have seen samples of this year’s advertising. Our alumni have responded with pleasure, and there is much to do under the leadership of Interim Director of Marketing Amy Barnes and Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Jim Hundrieser, with strong support from Information Technology and the Office of Public Relations. Many of you will be providing information and responses, creating videos, and more. PSU’s reputation rightly has been growing in breadth and depth because of the high quality of the educational experience that PSU’s excellent staff and faculty provide. Plymouth State University is no longer a hidden gem.

We also want to enhance revenue through continued advocacy, partnerships, sponsored programs, and philanthropy, diversifying revenues so that fewer costs fall on students and their families. Earlier today I mentioned a few of the important regional partnerships supporting students, faculty, and staff, and that emphasis was deliberate, because partnerships are powerful opportunities. This year, the Office of Sponsored Programs managed over $11.1 million and is actively working to match external funding with PSU projects. And this year, I am happy to report, was a record year for University Advancement, which raised $5.2 million, an important milestone for PSU and meaningful support for specifically designated PSU scholarships, programs, and even a small amount to the general operating budget, to which the Annual Fund now contributes. As one alumnus wrote recently with pride, “I contribute yearly to the Annual Fund and am pleased to support such educational heights especially as it may help deserving students.” Congratulations to the Advancement team.

Finally, we will be looking to the next phase of PSU’s strategic planning. Soon the Planning and Budgeting Leadership Group will be bringing the draft University strategic plan to constituencies for discussion and asking for responses and ideas. These discussions matter because no one can work on a plan without understanding and owning it, and we want everyone at PSU to see his and her role in making the strategic plan a good one and in making it a reality.

Together we will lean in on enrollment and communication and planning. I am confident in our mission, our impact, and the talent and energy of this PSU team—and many others on campus, in the community, and across the state are confident in PSU as well. Here is why. [Watch the video at the end of this text. It was created for a legislative presentation.]

That is what we do and whom we serve.

This year we lost alumnus, commissioner, and executive councilor Raymond S. Burton, a recipient of PSU’s Granite State Award and Blair Medal for Distinguished Public Service. Ray shaped a life around bettering a place he loved, and he asked that his memorial be held on campus, because PSU provided him the opportunity to live that life. That legacy continues. On a recent snow day (and we do owe the physical plant team thanks for their care across this long winter), I went to Biederman’s Deli between meetings. Three of our students took the opportunity to thank me, and through me to thank you: they are graduating this semester in four years and debt-free, and they wanted me to know that they have had a wonderful education. That was a perfect lunch.

A new book (available at the bookstore) provides a history of Plymouth State University written by Marcia Schmidt Blaine (History, Philosophy, and Social Science Education) and Louise Samaha McCormack (Health and Human Performance), with wonderful contemporary photos. It was produced by the Office of Public Relations, with special thanks to Lisa Prince and Barbra Alan.

The book is a beautiful study of PSU’s past and present. Its future we are building together. I am honored to be among you as we do.

Legislator Briefing

December 9th, 2013 by Tim

President Steen addressed New Hampshire legislators and guests at a briefing on December 9, 2013.  Handouts supporting her remarks are found in the link to a printable pdf or contained in the text below.  In addition, accompanying videos can be viewed from the below link.

View or print handouts here

View the full videos here

PLYMOUTH STATE UNIVERSITY

LIVING THE PLYMOUTH STATE MISSION

Mission

As a regional comprehensive university, Plymouth State University serves the state of New Hampshire and New England by providing well-educated graduates; by offering ongoing opportunities for graduate education and professional development; and by extending to communities partnership opportunities for cultural enrichment and economic development. In each of these roles, Plymouth State University has a special commitment of service to the North Country and Lakes Region of New Hampshire.

At Plymouth State University, mission is an active verb. In all we do, the people at Plymouth State are striving to serve, from providing each and every student with a meaningful education, to working on behalf of our local and wider community with valuable research, partnerships, and service that solve problems and add value. As Executive Director of University Relations Steve Barba states, “Plymouth State is higher education with its feet on the ground.”

Vision
PSU seeks to be a premier comprehensive university with a distinguished reputation in specialized areas of study, respected for its standards of excellence and regional impact. Among PSU’s primary goals are:

  • academic excellence where students work closely with faculty mentors;
  • access to excellent education for all students, especially the more than 40 percent first-generation students;
  • high-quality student engagement that continues to place PSU above its national peers (National Survey of Student Engagement) in areas of success such as academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, and supportive campus environment;
  • affordable and cost effective options for online and transfer students that foster academic success and high completion rates;
  • enriched character-building and transformational experiences on the residential campus;
  • regional impact through outreach in arts, cultural, and economic development initiatives and partnerships;
  • a culture of service and engagement where organizations, communities, and institutions are eager to form productive partnerships, enabling PSU to do good work and provide real-world opportunities for students to learn.

 

ACADEMIC PROGRAMS

PSU offers a range of focused and integrated liberal arts and professional programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels to meet our mission of providing well–educated graduates for New Hampshire and beyond.

PSU currently educates 7,025 students; 4,525 undergraduate and 2,500 graduate, representing 47 states and 28 countries.

Recent program additions, enhancements, and news include:

  • PSU is working to expand academic capacity in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and allied health fields. A range of existing programs in science and math includes an expanding program in computer science and a distinctive meteorology program recognized for faculty-student research, the only one in New Hampshire. A new nursing program that awarded its first degrees in May, 2013 is a harbinger of a growing effort in the health fields that already includes mental health, school psychology, and Health and Human Performance, with 13 undergraduate and graduate programs in health and wellness.
  • The new Master of Arts in Historic Preservation, begun in 2012, is designed to provide a fundamental understanding of historic preservation issues and opportunities that promote the protection of historic and cultural resources, particularly those cherished in New Hampshire and New England. Students acquire skills that are ideal for careers in historic preservation, heritage tourism, and/or heritage resource management. Students may choose to enroll in the historic preservation master’s program or pursue a graduate historic preservation certificate.
  • PSU’s EdD program in Learning, Leadership, and Community continues to grow. Aimed at working teachers, administrators, counselors, and individuals in higher education, related community agencies, and organizations, the program integrates research, service, and coursework, creating reach beyond the campus and opportunities for students to make a difference with applied research that can translate into educational improvements in schools. Begun in 2009, the program has conferred 10 doctorates and currently has 63 candidates enrolled. Each admitted candidate becomes part of a small cohort of candidates who work together as a learning community for the eight required doctoral courses, and then pursue their own specializations for the remaining requirements.
  • The Division of Online and Continuing Studies (DOCS) serves undergraduate, online students—both full and part–time students—as well as students who want a combination of evening, daytime and online courses. PSU now offers four undergraduate degree programs 100% online as well as on the residential campus (Criminal Justice, Communication and Media Studies, Nursing, and Business Administration). Online programs last year generated 5,600 enrollments and nearly 17,000 credit hours. PSU currently educates 7,025 students; 4,525 undergraduate and 2,500 graduate, representing 47 states and 28 countries.
  • PSU’s Professional Sales Leadership Program has been named one of the best in North America by the Sales Education Foundation, as it released its list of Top University Sales Programs. The program, begun in 2009, offers a minor or a certificate. Students learn through an eight-step consultation process, and students in the program are averaging 2.8 job offers before graduation. PSU students placed in the top 20 schools in the nation at the National Collegiate Sales Competition and placed runner-up in the Northeast Intercollegiate Sales Competition. The program recently added another corporate sponsor, DHL, a global logistics company, bringing the number of companies on their advisory board to 20. In aggregate, these companies represent some 1.3 million employees.
  • Plymouth State’s online Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), New Hampshire’s first, has marked a 10-year track record of success and innovation, receiving recent national recognition. The program offers the flexibility of 100 percent online coursework or a combination of night or weekend-intensive courses, making it possible to earn an MBA while working full-time or with international options. PSU’s accredited MBA program has offered degrees for nearly 40 years and is home to the award-winning Zamzow Small Business Institute.

Recent news about students and alumni further tell the story of the “Plymouth State experience”:

  • Chelsea Desrochers ’13 (Psychology) is considered to be among the next generation of the nation’s civic leaders. As a 2013 Newman Civic Fellows Award winner, she was recognized for having demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country. She was also honored with the President’s Leadership Award from Campus Compact for New Hampshire, which recognizes students who have made outstanding contributions to civic engagement. Desrochers was the president of PSU’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, oversaw student volunteers for PSU’s Alternative Spring Break, has served in the US and in countries such as Nicaragua, and was vice president of the Student Support Foundation.
  • Alex Nix ’13 (Business) earned his degree in accounting with a double minor in Chinese (Mandarin) and economics. Like the majority of PSU’s accounting seniors, Nix secured a position well before graduation, in his case with a major international firm. During his undergraduate years, Nix served as treasurer of the student senate, allocating $1.67 million to student organizations and various departments and set the student activity fee. He also served as president and treasurer of the College of Business Administration Student Advisory Council and as treasurer of Spring Fling, and was a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Delta Mu Delta honor societies. In his senior year, he was elected by the PSU student body to serve as student trustee on the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees.
  • Current graduate student Katie Laro ’12 (Meteorology) is working with her mentor, Professor Emeritus of Meteorology James Koermer, to test the effectiveness of a lightning sensor prototype for a company that wants to produce low-cost lightning detectors for businesses whose revenue is tied directly to weather conditions, such as golf courses and stadiums. As an undergraduate in Plymouth State’s highly regarded meteorology program, Laro was among 75 students nationwide invited to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, to present her work on convective episodes, periods ofthunderstorms or heavy rain showers that have the potential of producing dangerous surface winds. Laro conducted her research at Cape Canaveral, Florida, working side-by-side with Professor Koermer, and the work has had an impact on the weather support provided to the nation’s space program.
  • Joseph “Joey” Lee ’06 has been named the 2014 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year by the New Hampshire Department of Education. Lee is a social studies teacher at Pinkerton Academy, currently teaching cultural geography. He coaches golf, will direct the hockey program this year, and is co-adviser for the China Exchange Program. The selection committee recognized his passion for teaching, the energy he brings to the classroom, and his philosophy of making every student better. Lee will be New Hampshire’s candidate for the national Teacher of the Year award, the oldest and most prestigious program to focus on excellence in teaching.
  • Baritone Daniel Brevik ’11 (Music, Theatre, and Dance) is currently with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, an A-level opera house, where he will perform in the company of respected and well-known opera singers, sometimes with music created for his voice. As a student at PSU, Brevik studied and performed in a prestigious festival in Salzburg, Austria, and toured Italy, Vietnam, and the American Southwest with the PSU Chamber Singers, and performed on campus in department productions and with the popular student a cappella group, Vocal Order. He also received the Peoples Choice Award at the American Traditions Competitions for Singers (ATC) in Savannah, GA, where he was the youngest of the 35 contestants, the only undergraduate selected for the competition, and one of five singers chosen to perform in a master class given by American opera baritone Sherrill Milnes, who was a judge for the competition. Of his undergraduate experience that included voice studies with Professor Kathleen Arecchi, Brevik commented, “I’m so lucky I heard about Plymouth State.”

INNOVATIVE TEACHING

Innovation is a hallmark of the Plymouth State University academic experience, often marked by collaboration and partnerships that help deliver outstanding student opportunities. PSU has received national recognition for its teaching environment (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2011) and has also received higher ratings than our peers in the National Survey of Student Engagement, based on factors such as academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, and supportive campus environment.

TIGER Takes on Bullying, a collaboration between PSU and NHPTV, received an Emmy Award in the Children/Youth Program category at the 36th Boston/New England Emmy Awards ceremony.

The TIGER (Theater Integrating Guidance, Education, and Responsibility) program is a powerful and exciting collaboration between the Integrated Arts and Counselor Education graduate programs that also demonstrates how intellectual capital, collaboration, and innovation are transformed into activities that impact our students, our region and state, and well beyond. TIGER is a professional theatre company designed to help children, schools, parents, and communities deal proactively and positively with social issues and concerns facing children in schools today. Born out of a sabbatical project for Trish Lindberg (Elementary Education & Childhood Studies) and with her colleagues Gary Goodnough and Gail Mears in the College of Graduate Studies, TIGER developed into a travelling theatre company that addresses social issues facing children today. Delivered primarily to schoolchildren throughout New England, TIGER has reached more than 320,000 so far, with countless others being touched through the Emmy Award-winning television program, TIGER Takes on Bullying, an original program co-produced by Trish Lindberg and New Hampshire Public Television. The show depicts children’s real experiences of bullying and intolerance, and shows children how to move toward more positive social interactions at school.

The North Country Teacher Certification Program (NCTCP) is a forward-looking collaboration between Plymouth State University and White Mountains Community College designed to provide opportunities for higher education to place-bound students in the North Country of New Hampshire. North Country residents can earn a bachelor’s degree and K–8 teacher certification upon graduation from the program. Launched in fall 2005, the program runs on a two-year cycle with three semesters of course work and one semester of student teaching. The cohort of students takes their Plymouth State University courses together at White Mountains Community College in Berlin, with classes on evenings and weekends to accommodate non-traditional students who work in the day. The goal of the NCTCP is to provide these citizens who want to stay in the North Country with an opportunity previously unavailable to them. The largest cohort of students will graduate in 2014 (16), adding to the 26 who have already graduated, with an impressive 81 percent graduation rate, the majority of these new teachers remaining in the North Country.

PSU has introduced a new web-based advising tool called Degree Works that offers a better way to support students. Known as the premier advising tool used in the United States today, Degree Works is a comprehensive academic advising, transfer articulation, and degree audit solution that helps students negotiate curriculum and degree requirements. Plymouth State is an early adopter of Degree Works, the first in the University System of New Hampshire to do so, and one of just two institutions in New Hampshire currently using the tool. By using Degree Works, PSU students and their advisors minimize obstacles that slow progress to graduation, creating clear and consistent degree plans that can lead to faster time to graduation.

The Coos County Early Childhood Development Initiative is a multiyear, multipartner initiative dedicated to improving the lives of young children and their families in Coos County that is funded by the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the NH Charitable Foundation. The overall goal of the Initiative is to improve the health, early care and education, and well being of young children from birth to age five and their families in Coos County. The Coos County Early Childhood Leadership Cohort is one part of the PSU Early Childhood grant that focuses on professional development and preparation of early childhood teachers and directors; three cohort students have just graduated in 2013 and have begun working in the county.

The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and PSU have signed an agreement to work together in education, environmental science, and cultural and historic studies. PSU and the AMC are among the few organizations working in northern New Hampshire with the institutional capacity to make a significant impact on the land, the communities, the economy, and the people. Mutually beneficial programs and activities are being planned to promote the joint missions of the AMC and PSU in education, research, and student service-learning opportunities throughout New England. Cooperative educational efforts in youth development, adventure education, natural and cultural history, and resource management will develop understanding, awareness, and appreciation of the White Mountains.

PSU and the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) have a partnership that enables ongoing collaboration in environmental science, social science, historical and cultural programs, and operations within the 800,000 acres of the WMNF in New Hampshire and Maine. The WMNF has a variety of data collection, monitoring, evaluation, and operational needs that PSU can collaborate on, providing PSU faculty and students with opportunities for applied environmental studies, education, and outreach; and the WMNF benefits from access to PSU’s research and field work.

PSU joined the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation to form a consortium to support research, education, and policy initiatives at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, the site of one of the longest running and most comprehensive ecosystem studies in the world. The five charter members of the Hubbard Brook Consortium are PSU, Dartmouth College, Syracuse University, the US Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, and Wellesley College. Hubbard Brook is well known as the place where acid rain was discovered in North America in the mid-1960s. For the past 50 years, hundreds of scientists representing dozens of research institutions have been part of the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study on the patterns and processes governing forest ecosystems. Current faculty research involves understanding the impact of forest fertilization on hydrology, tracing water sources with water isotopes, detecting decadal trends in the long-term hydrologic record, and studying snow hydrology.

 

RESEARCH AND CREATIVITY

PSU’s Center for Rural Partnerships and students majoring in environmental science and policy performed a bio assessment of the Ammonoosuc River for NH Fish and Game to improve water quality in the region’s lakes and rivers.

The PSU faculty is a strong mix of traditional academicians who are excellent teachers, scholars, and mentors, and former practitioners who provide a rich and enhanced experience for students marked by creativity and research activities. Notable recent examples include:

  • Jonathan Santore (Music, Theatre, and Dance) has been awarded the American Prize in Composition for Choral Music. Santore, who serves as chair of the Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance, was honored this year for his submission of selected choral works in the category for professional composers and was cited for “impressive skill, expressivity, and contrast in every musical selection.” Santore’s American Prize submission included recordings of his work performed by the New Hampshire Master Chorale, led by PSU professor Dan Perkins and for which Santore serves as composer in residence.
  • Lourdes Avilés’s (Atmospheric Science and Chemistry) book on the science and history of the New England Hurricane of 1938, Taken by Storm, 1938: A Social and Meteorological History of the Great New England Hurricane, together with the 75th anniversary of the storm on September 21, has prompted newspaper, Internet, and TV interviews and appearances (including the Weather Channel, Associated Press, New Hampshire Public Radio, and others). More than one thousand people—in person and online via web streaming—joined the WMUR-TV 1938 Hurricane Anniversary event, held at the PSU Welcome Center.
  • Trish Lindberg (Elementary Education and Childhood Studies) worked with New Hampshire composer Will Ögmundson, and faculty members Lisa Travis (Music, Theatre, and Dance) and Chris Slater (Elementary Education and Childhood Studies) to produce an original musical called Transitions. The production, supported by a suicide prevention grant received by PSU and based on the writings of students about sensitive issues that cause students stress, was aimed at high school, college, and adult audiences. Performances featured communications major Sarah Flower, music education major Alex Huntoon, elementary and childhood studies major Rachel Perelli, and music theatre performance major, Will Bolton.
  • Gary Goodnough (Counselor Education and School Psychology) has been named the Marijane Fall Counselor Educator of the Year by the North Atlantic Region Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. A licensed clinical mental health counselor who is nationally certified, Goodnough is a state and national leader in the counseling profession. The award recognizes “a creative, generous, charitable counselor educator who has reached out to others in spirit, scholarship, and deed and thereby made a profound difference in the lives of those so touched.”
  • Irene Cucina (Health and Human Performance) is an example of PSU’s continuing leadership in health and wellness. Under her watch as national president in 2012–13, the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD) announced a new era in youth fitness assessment called the Presidential Youth Fitness Program in partnership with the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, the Amateur Athletic Union, the Cooper Institute, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Presidential Youth Fitness Program, which replaces the 24-year old Physical Fitness Test for youth, is a comprehensive program emphasizing health over performance and using FITNESSGRAM® as the program’s student fitness assessment. A nonprofit professional education association, AAHPERD is committed to enhancing the quality of physical education programs in this country. The initiative has national significance for childhood health and wellness. As she ended her presidency, Cucina spoke at a congressional briefing on the State of Health and Physical Education in Our Schools, shared highlights from AAHPERD and the American Heart Association’s 2012 Shape of the Nation Report, and provided an educator’s perspective on the importance of health and physical education.
  • Fulbright scholar Mark Green (Center for the Environment) is lead author on a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences summarizing the results of a forest fertilization experiment at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. The research showed that a forest fertilized with calcium grew faster and in doing so transpired (evaporated through leaves) more water than the control watershed. The difference was so great that stream flow substantially declined in the fertilized forest. This is significant because the forest may have been limited by calcium due to the legacy of acid rain in the region. Also, it highlights an unintended consequence of forest fertilization. Professor Green also co-led a bilateral meeting of Japanese and US hydrologists to understand the response of forested watersheds to environmental change. The meeting involved 40 watershed scientists and was co-funded by the US National Science Foundation and the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science.

Professor Chris Chabot indicates photoreceptors on a juvenile horseshoe crab to PSU students Matt Sebas and Shiwha Park. Much of Chabot’s career has been spent researching biological clocks in the area of circadian biology.

Undergraduate and graduate students, as well as the local region, state, and beyond, benefit from an increased number of externally funded research grants ($1.5 million more this year). Students benefit in various ways, working alongside faculty on research and projects in locations near and far, while often doing good and making a difference. Among the goals of research activities at PSU are enhanced learning through mentoring, preparing students for employment, developing critical thinking skills, and creating intellectual independence.

  • Thad Guldbrandsen, founding director of the Center for Rural Partnerships, has been named vice provost for research and engagement, redefined from the former vice provost position to recognize the increased importance of PSU’s external engagement and to provide support for faculty who pursue extramural funding. In its first six years, under the leadership of Guldbrandsen, the Center for Rural Partnerships has undertaken dozens of initiatives, developed strategic partnerships with off-campus organizations, and created numerous service-learning and research opportunities for PSU students. He has been a catalyst for innovative engaged scholarship among students and faculty and has arranged valuable partnerships for PSU with regional organizations, helping to expand PSU’s reach and attract new funding to the institution.
  • PSU’s Student Showcase of Excellence, held each spring, is often the culminating presentation for many students who attend the event with their faculty mentors and present results of research through posters, presentations, and performances. Students display and demonstrate original research in the sciences, arts, and humanities, along with original musical and dance performances, representing a range of academic disciplines and demonstrating outstanding student scholarship. Projects in 2013 included research that worked to understand source water variation during storm events across NH watersheds, examined marine influences on lake sediments in Iceland to understand climate variability, worked on conserving grassland bird habitat on private lands in New Hampshire, and helped to identify cholera genes, improving treatment.
  • PSU also works with other New Hampshire higher education institutions on a statewide research and education project known as EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research). The participants work to understand the environment and complex interactions of the climate-ecological-human system and provide information to state decision makers. The project also provides new education and training opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that is necessary for a highly skilled state workforce that advances economic development and employment.
  • Plymouth State researchers are also participating with the New England Sustainability Consortium to help ensure the health of the New Hampshire and Maine coastal ecosystem. The three-year study funded by the National Science Foundation strengthens management of recreational beaches and shellfish harvesting. PSU will expand a current water research project to the= Gulf of Maine, lead workforce development initiatives, and examine inclusive decision-making as a product of ecosystem research. Three PSU faculty members (Mark Green, professor of hydrology; Doug Earick, research professor; and Shannon Rogers, professor of ecological economics) and students from the Center for the Environment and Department of Environmental Science and Policy are participating.
  • The Judd Gregg Meteorology Institute is the center of meteorological and atmospheric research at PSU. Projects and partnerships exist with the National Weather Center, University of New Hampshire, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Air Force, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Federal Aviation Administration, Mount Washington Observatory, US Army Cold Regions Research Engineering Laboratory, and many other agencies. The Plymouth State Weather Center, one of the most sophisticated weather centers in the country, provides comprehensive weather information, including observations, tutorials, satellite and radar data, and more, and is accessed online (vortex.plymouth.edu) more than 500,000 times a week.
  • The National Institute for Health’s IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) grant, continues its support of PSU research involving human health and wellness, in particular on balance and health, active living across the lifespan, circadian rhythms, and cholera studies. Other grants support work on innovative partnerships with organizations in the North Country, climate change, global change sustainability programs, enhancing student support services at PSU, and measuring the effectiveness of state tourism initiatives.
  • Professor Eric Kelsey serves in a unique joint appointment between Plymouth State University and the Mount Washington Observatory, two institutions known for their education, research, and outreach in weather and climate. As director of research at the MWO, Kelsey is developing a research program to address several weather and climate issues that are critical to the social, economic, health, and cultural resilience of the region. As research professor of atmospheric science at PSU, Kelsey is integrating undergraduate and graduate students into his research projects so students can apply knowledge they gain in the classroom to address real issues, learn professional skills, and be better prepared for careers in atmospheric science. These research and education opportunities will be leveraged with the abundant resources available at both institutions: a growing network of over 30 weather stations, PSU’s weather balloon system, an advanced computing system to run high-resolution weather forecast models at PSU, and skilled atmospheric science faculty and staff. Current projects include understanding the drivers of climate change and improving the accuracy of weather forecasts in the northeastern US, and improving icing forecasts for aviation safety.
  • The Joe ’68 and Gail ’66 White Graduate Fellowship supports graduate students in Environmental Science and Policy whose work helps address environmental issues of concern in New Hampshire. Current fellow Jamie Sydoriak’s work focuses on bird surveys and developing landowner outreach materials about the background, science, and management of maintaining grasslands for bird habitat. Fellow Lily Zahor’s research on tree ecological physiology focuses on effects of calcium-depleted soils from acid rain on tree productivity in the White Mountain National Forest.
  • In the Haverhill Downtown Business Development Project, students in the College of Business Administration conducted a study to evaluate the business climate for Haverhill and some of the surrounding towns. The class provided a written report as well as raw data exported to a cross-tabulation software called Market Sight, which will allow the town to take any combination of questions or variables and then isolate them for trends or results.
  • Also in Haverhill, a two-year civic engagement project focused on the quality of life in the towns of Haverhill Corner, North Haverhill, and Woodsville. The project, known as the Haverhill Civic Forum consists of a series of small group discussions in which local residents identify topics of community importance for further public exploration. These community conversations are facilitated by PSU faculty and undergraduate students enrolled in PSU’s Rural Field Studies and will identify local priorities, set achievable objectives, and ultimately enhance the quality of life in Haverhill and beyond.

 

ENGAGEMENT

PSU is one of only 311 higher education institutions nationally to hold the community engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation. PSU was cited for “excellent alignment among mission, culture, leadership, resources, and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy community engagement.”

Plymouth State University has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for all seven years of the program’s existence. Part of the federal Learn and Serve America program, the honor roll supports and encourages service learning throughout the United States. Each year the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community problems and placing more students on a lifelong path of civic engagement by recognizing institutions that achieve meaningful, measureable outcomes in the communities they serve. This year, the Corporation for National and Community Service selected 642 colleges and universities for the honor roll based on factors such as the scope and innovation of service projects, the extent to which service learning is embedded in the curriculum, the school’s commitment to long-term campus-community partnerships, and measurable community outcomes as a result of the service.

Efforts associated with the Center for the Environment, the Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities, and the Center for Rural Partnerships—PSU’s intersecting threads of healthy places, healthy people, and healthy economies—benefit the region while providing learning opportunities for students.

  • PSU’s Center for the Environment (CFE) recently signed an agreement with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to continue the work of joint projects for improved environmental protection with an emphasis on building understanding and involvement among local communities and organizations in the North Country. According to CFE director Joseph Boyer, such a partnership gives students real world experience, and at the same time provides a brighter future for environmental science, education, and the economy. CFE and NHDES have previously partnered on several research projects and the establishment of the Center’s Environmental Research Laboratory, which serves as a satellite lab for the NHDES’s Volunteer Lake Assessment Program.
  • The Center for the Environment (CFE) and the Squam Lakes Association (SLA) have continued a joint agreement to protect and improve the health of the Squam Lakes watershed ecosystem. The objective is to facilitate and grow the joint capacity to engage in research, monitoring, education, and stewardship of the Squam Lakes watershed. CFE and SLA have previously partnered on research projects such as water quality, methods for reducing milfoil, a recreation study, and an analysis of land use regulations in the watershed towns. In addition, SLA has hired PSU students for summer field positions and often supports class field trips, providing students with valuable hands-on opportunities. Currently, PSU Professor Shannon Rogers is working on a study of the ecosystem services provided by the Squam Lakes watershed.
  • Each year, the NH Water and Watershed Conference provides current information about New Hampshire’s water resources and related topics. Approximately 200 people attend the event to hear a variety of talks and to network with other people interested in our water resources. The conference started in 2007, merged with the NH Watershed Conference in 2009, and since 2011, it has been held at PSU with June Hammond Rowan from the Center for the Environment as the primary organizer. The 2014 conference will be on March 21, 2014 with a theme of “Sustainability of NH’s Water Resources.”
  • The Coos County Outreach Initiative (CCOI) is a program that provides seed funding and institutional support for collaborative partnerships between PSU faculty, staff, students, and regional partners. The Coos County Outreach Initiative reflects community-based interests in the form of projects, exhibitions, tools, and an evolving network of human and organizational resources. Faculty, staff, and students apply for competitive internal grants through PSU’s Center for Rural Partnerships for the purpose of creating partnerships relevant to their academic interests or scholarly expertise. These collaborative projects not only benefit faculty, but also strengthen relationships between PSU students and rural stakeholders. As a whole, the CCOI program leverages additional resources for rural New Hampshire and serves as a catalyst for regional prosperity. The CCOI is funded by the US Department of Education and the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.
  • A new student engagement laboratory through the Center for Rural Partnerships involves students in collaborative research and outreach projects with and among local, regional, and international partners. Students from social work, computer science, tourism management and policy, and social science have participated, with some earning regional recognition for their efforts.
  • The Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities focuses on research and community outreach with its activities. Recent outreach has included developing long-range strategies to expand access to whole, fresh, and locally grown foods in the Plymouth area; PSU students conducting senior fitness testing through area wellness fairs; and health and human performance students engaging in planning and implementing a community running/walking event. The Center also provides support for further research on fall risk assessment and reduction in older adults that is being conducted at PSU.

 

Building on its rich heritage in teacher education, PSU continues to be a leader in education. State governmental and business leaders, along with educators from around the state, commended PSU faculty leadership in the NH Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development when it was named the outstanding educational affiliate in the nation. The association’s NH Journal of Education is edited at Plymouth State by Stevens-Bristow Professor of Education Marianne True (chair of the Department of Elementary Education and Childhood Studies) and Stacey Curdie-Meade of the Lamson Learning Commons. Notably, the PSU ASCD Student Chapter also has been recognized for excellence.

The PSU chapter of the education honor society Kappa Delta Pi was presented with a 2013 US Presidential Volunteer Award “in recognition and appreciation of their commitment to strengthening our nation and for making a difference through volunteer service.” President Obama congratulated students for “helping to address the most pressing needs in their communities.” KDP students engaged in literacy initiatives in the greater Plymouth area and the North Country, supporting their mission “to sustain an honored community of diverse educators by promoting excellence and advancing scholarship, leadership, and service.” KDP students provided more than 1000 hours of community service last year.

Cheryl Baker (College of Graduate Studies) facilitates a group known as the Rural School Educator Effectiveness Collaborative (RSEEC) that provides quality professional development opportunities to NH’s rural educators. RSEEC partners include the NH Department of Education (NHDOE), Keene State College, North Country Education Services, Granite State College, and New England College. Natalya Vinogradova, director of PSU’s NH Impact Center, spearheads the mathematics professional development for this project. These efforts are supported by the State Agency Higher Education award through NHDOE.

Faculty Pat Cantor and Mary Cornish (Early Childhood Studies) are engaged in activities that benefit young children in Coos County. The Coos Coalition for Young Children and Families is developing a comprehensive plan to promote optimal development for young children and their families in Coos County by focusing on strategies that support and build healthy social and emotional development. Cornish and Cantor have also provided an ongoing series of professional development opportunities for early childhood teachers and directors from eight early care and education programs in Coos County to promote higher quality early care and education in Coos County. Both endeavors are supported by the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund. In addition, Cantor was a member of the five-person NH state team for the National Association for the Education of Young Children Public Policy Forum in Washington, DC, meeting with legislative aides and policy advisors for each member of NH’s Congressional delegation.

Since 2003, PSU has hosted NH’s National History Day program, an educational program that encourages middle and high school students to celebrate their skills as historians and exposes them to the processes, sources, and complexities of historical research. Nearly one million students participate nationwide. Working as individuals or in groups, students (grades 6–8 and 9–12) choose a topic relating to a nationally established annual theme. Students investigate their topic, develop a thesis, and interpret primary and secondary sources for application to the national theme. As part of the initiative, PSU’s Lamson Library provides library instruction to area school students.

 

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The new Enterprise Center at Plymouth houses 5 resident companies with 19 employees and one virtual member.

In meeting its mission of educating students, half of whom remain in the state, Plymouth State University develops programs designed to meet state workforce needs and engages in hundreds of partnerships with businesses, government, schools, and nonprofits, bringing higher education to bear on our region’s economy.

The Enterprise Center at Plymouth (ECP) has opened and is now at capacity (of available space) with member businesses. The business incubator and accelerator was developed in partnership with the Grafton County Economic Development Council (GCEDC) and funded with more than $2 million from state, regional, and federal sources. The GCEDC has been responsible for managing construction and will continue to oversee the facility. Executive Director and College of Business Administration faculty member Michael Tentnowski provides leadership of the incubator and accelerator, and will guide PSU students and faculty who will work with member businesses. The ECP also acts as headquarters for enhanced business outreach in central New Hampshire by PSU staff and graduate students. Special features of the ECP include a sales skills development office, a video production room, and a space dedicated to professional focus group services.

Though the ECP building opened in October 2013, ECP staff have been providing “virtual incubation and acceleration” to several clients since January 2013 and have had a regional impact through more than 50 workshops, seminars, and presentations to chambers of commerce and other business organizations.

The ECP builds on the success of what is now known as the Zamzow Small Business Institute at PSU. The program has won the national SBI Showcase Award and PSU SBI projects have been awarded either first- or second-place Project of the Year awards in each of the past fourteen years, the last two of which saw two first place PSU wins at the national level. No other school in the history of the SBI organization has ever achieved this level of success. Two teams from PSU’s MBA program earned first place awards in the 2012 National Small Business Institute® Project of the Year Competition. John Scarponi and Tim Beaulieu created a comprehensive business growth plan for Narrative1, a software company located in Holderness that provides software systems for commercial appraisers. The firm, founded by alumnus Tom Armstrong, was the first member business for the ECP, now working to expand its market share nationally. Teirrah Hussey and Marc Abear teamed up to create a winning marketing and operations plan for another Holderness business, Long Haul Farm, an organic farm with a restaurant and unique entertainment venue.

The ALLWell (Active Living, Learning, and Wellness) Center is an advanced and contemporary complex that replaces the existing PE Center (constructed in 1968) and integrates academics, athletics, and recreation on one site to better achieve the educational purposes of PSU. The facility will strengthen the educational link between the Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP), which houses 13 multidisciplinary undergraduate and graduate programs, and important athletic and recreational spaces for all students. ALLWell will advance student recruiting; allow for new academic majors and options related to health and wellness; increase our ability to attract external funding through sponsored research; and allow for additional community programming, economic development, and critical workforce development in the much needed fields of health and wellness. ALLWell I, the PSU Ice Arena and Welcome Center that was completed in 2010, is the first phase of the ALLWell project. This facility was projected to add $2.6 million annually to the local economy. The proposed ALLWell North, a multi-purpose academic, recreational, and athletic facility with high volume use also will bring over $2 million annually in direct impact.

Plymouth State’s first nursing class graduated in 2013. Of the 32 graduates, all who sought employment as registered nurses are working, many at regional hospitals. Already, one hospital recently commented about the high quality of the students’ preparation as professional nurses. An additional 103 students are continuing in the program in the traditional four-year program or in the RN-to-BS completion program.

With the Institute for New Hampshire Studies and the Division of Travel and Tourism Development, the Center for Rural Partnerships hosts professional development workshops focusing on topics of interest to the tourism community: Tourism Development Toolkit Series. Recent workshops have focused on “retro” itinerary development and agritourism development on area farms. Another, organized by Professor Katharine Harrington (interim chair, Languages and Linguistics), helps local business owners be more supportive of French-speaking visitors. It was organized in conjunction with the Institute of New Hampshire Studies, the NH/Canada Trade Council, and the Pemi Valley, Plymouth Regional, and Littleton chambers of commerce to provide opportunities for students and to support economic development.

The North Country Economic Index (NCEI) is a quarterly economic report to gauge the performance of the economy in rural northern New Hampshire. The NCEI is a periodic index prepared by Professor Dan Lee (College of Business Administration), containing detailed information about the economic climate in Coös County and northern New Hampshire, including rooms and meals tax collections, home sales, manufacturing and trade sales, building permits, electricity sales, and personal income data. The report also tracks the economic performance of the State of New Hampshire for comparison purposes. A complementary student section reports on episodes and interviews with community leaders, reflecting the recognition that aggregate economic data may not reflect some positive side of the economy, particularly when the economy is going through some tough stretches. The NCEI was developed through a partnership with the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the Coös County Outreach Initiative, and PSU’s Center for Rural Partnerships.

 

A UNIVERSITY OF PLACE

Plymouth State serves our region through collaborations and initiatives that make New Hampshire a better place.

The Museum of the White Mountains (MWM) has welcomed 4,000 visitors through its doors since its February 2013 opening, and more than 34,000 visitors online. Many have traveled specifically to see the museum, which has also hosted civic groups, schoolchildren, and Boy Scout troops. The current exhibition, Passing Through: The Allure of the White Mountains, will continue through March 2, 2014. Through the Eyes of the Dealers: Bob and Dot Goldberg will also be on display beginning October 17, and marks the first loan from a major art institution, the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. A second major exhibition, To the Extremes: the Geology of Adventure in the White Mountains, will open in March 2014 and will include images, developed through new technology, of significant natural features in the region.

In June 2013, the museum co-hosted an evening on the White Mountains at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, led by MWM director Catherine Amidon. Among the presenters was Executive Director of University Relations Stephen Barba who spoke on the history of Grand Hotels and especially The BALSAMS. Professor of Music Mark Stickney had located and rearranged music from the Grand Hotels, which was performed by PSU faculty members. The event was nearly sold out, and the resulting news story appeared across the country and around the world.

In October, the MWM opened the exhibition The Great Blow Down: Effects of the 1938 Hurricane in Northern New England at the Mount Washington Observatory’s Weather Discovery Center in North Conway. Curated by PSU meteorologist Lourdes Avilés, the exhibition is one of a series of educational outreach initiatives by the MWM that will be made available for free to schools and not-for-profit organizations. Though all images, writings and educational materials are posted online, the MWM also mailed more than 200 DVDs of its current exhibition to regional and North Country schools, many of which are without high speed Internet connections, to introduce the exhibition and make educators aware of online resources including standards-based curriculum packets.

The People’s Forest: The Story of the White Mountain National Forest is a documentary film about the creation of America’s national forests that was produced by Moore Huntley Productions in collaboration with PSU’s Center for Rural Partnerships and the Museum of the White Mountains. The film focuses on the mix of man-made disasters, colorful characters, citizen activism, and political courage that brought about the protection of our national forests and grasslands through the Weeks Act of 1911. Principal producer David Huntley has produced and written for NOVA and Scientific American Frontiers, and the History Channel, Discovery, and National Geographic. The feature-length film will move on to national media outlets; a shorter 12-minute presentation inspired by the film is hosted on the museum’s website at go.plymouth.edu/museum.

PSU students and faculty joined the Plymouth Rotary, the Town of Holderness, DRED, NH Fish and Game, and other partners to form the Friends of the Pemi. This group models appropriate stewardship of Livermore Falls, (the stretch of river that runs from Livermore Falls past downtown Plymouth to the Plymouth “beach” on the Holderness side of the river), deepens community connections to the river, strengthens community ties, and provides better information for the public on the history, use and protection of the falls and surrounding area. Students are engaged in environmental and recreational planning and research.

The Educational Theatre Collaborative’s 2013 production of the original musical Marking The Moment has won the New England Theatre Conference Moss Hart Prize for outstanding theatre in New England. The Moss Hart prize recognizes outstanding theatrical productions of play scripts that present affirmative views of human courage and dignity, have strong literary and artistic merit, and exemplify creativity and imaginative treatment. The production, which celebrated the town of Plymouth’s 250th anniversary, was written by professor emeritus Manuel Marquez-Sterling and Trish Lindberg (Elementary Education and Childhood Studies) with music by New Hampshire composer William Ögmundson. Nearly 150 community members of all ages from 20 towns participated. Along with its annual production, ETC offers a one-day arts festival for children, an integrated arts conference for teachers, and a regional children’s art display. The innovative arts education program is a two-time Moss Hart Award winner for excellence in community and children’s theater in New England, and Lindberg’s original musical theatre production of Pollyanna, which premiered with ETC, has been published and is now available for production worldwide.

Sustainability

PSU is committed to sustainability. We hope that our activities positively affect NH’s greatest assets: the communities we serve and the natural environment around us. Many of our students, staff, and faculty are drawn to Plymouth State by their connections to place developed through family history, outdoor activities, and an appreciation of the high quality of life in New Hampshire, a quality of life that is dependent upon a healthy natural environment. Given these attachments to place, stewardship is a natural part of our campus sustainability efforts. We have taken many efforts to reduce energy use by increasing operational efficiency through technology and by encouraging conservation behavior in our community. Reducing energy use decreases our carbon footprint, keeps costs low for students, and is part of the larger efforts to be more sustainable in our region.

To better serve the region we continually improve our understanding of the impacts of our campus operations on the place in which we live. For example, last year a group of students examined the impacts of runoff from several of our parking lots to identify the effectiveness of our storm water pollution reduction measures. Across campus we continue to teach the next generation of environmental stewards in New Hampshire. The EcoHouse project is one such effort. EcoHouse is a student residence renovated through student class projects and serves as a living-learning laboratory for training future homeowners about sustainability in their own lives. This semester students have been researching photovoltaic power systems for the roof, have removed a parking space for installation of a tea garden, and have several other projects in process serving as learning opportunities for the future stewards of our region.

The Office of Environmental Sustainability at Plymouth State continues efforts to ensure our community residents are excellent stewards of the place we all call home. New Hampshire is a unique and special place, and through careful and consistent educational efforts of our future leaders we can ensure that stewardship of the natural environment continues to be a way of life.

Plymouth State University: Building for the Next Generation

March 27th, 2013 by Eric

State of the University Address
President Sara Jayne Steen
Plymouth State University
27 March 2013

Welcome to the State of the University Address. It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since we met to discuss the University’s progress toward our goals. This address is part of my commitment to accountability to you and our wider public, allowing us to come together to look at the University as a whole, to celebrate some of the year’s successes, and to delineate challenges and issues on which we must focus. Thank you for attending this afternoon.

And joining us, I would like to acknowledge some of our special guests. We have with us today Executive Councilor Ray Burton and his intern Ben Belanger; we have from our Board of Trustees our Chair Dick Galway, trustees Wally Stevens, and Carol Perkins, and Alex Nix, and USSB representative Jill Tarkleson; Plymouth Selectboard Chair Val Scarborough; award winners Dick and Betty Hanaway; President’s Council member Ed Wixson; Grafton County Economic Development Council Executive Director Mark Scarano; and Plymouth Regional Chamber Executive Director Scott Stephens.

Plymouth Normal School Class of 1913I’d like to begin with a photo recently bought for us at auction by a generous community member. It is of the Plymouth Normal School class of 1913, each young woman carefully identified on the back. Fifty-five students are posed in front of Rounds Hall—Ella, Phila, Annie, Cora, Helen—in their white blouses and long dark skirts, their hair upswept, some smiling, some solemn, and many looking to my eyes older than their years, in the way of that era. It was quite a year, 1913. The nation was dealing with storms and floods. There were wars overseas. The nation’s president was a Democrat and former academic dealing with the controversial social issue of women’s suffrage. These women, educators entrusted with young minds, were not yet entrusted with the vote. In the photo, they seem tranquil. With bright eyes and clear gazes, they look to the camera and the future.

Ernest Silver was president of the Normal School then and remained so until 1946. I was fortunate last month to visit two distinguished former faculty members, Drs. Henry Vittum and Norton Bagley, each of whom discussed Plymouth’s history. Dr. Bagley described President Silver as having been dedicated to students and to mutual respect between students and faculty. I was able to tell these beloved educators that Plymouth State had been recognized again last fall by the Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the nation’s Great Colleges to Work For, and that among the categories was teaching environment: educational innovation and commitment to student success. We can imagine that President Silver would smile to know that in that regard this vibrant comprehensive university of 7,300 students continues the traditions of 1913.

Rounds HallStill, it is a different era. Higher education is in the midst of enormous upheaval, with some people questioning the value of higher education in relation to its cost and others predicting higher education’s demise in the form we know it. State support for public higher education nationally is at a new low, while expectations for a college degree and the need for a highly educated population have never been greater. Shifting demographics mean increased competition for students, and the introduction of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and competency-based certification will alter how we think about learning and its assessment in ways we can’t yet fully predict. Higher education must be accessible and offer high quality if our nation is not to leave behind those who are the first in their families to attend college or have fewer financial resources on which to draw—and many of us here today would have been in those categories.

Responding to such challenges means our being nimble and engaging in constant planning and adjustment and readjustment, bringing good minds together in ongoing conversations about Plymouth State and serving students. At the same time that we at PSU are increasing access to high-quality programs through technology, for example, we also are continuing to enhance the value of PSU’s strong residential experience in order to become even more “distinctive in niche and distinguished in performance,” as Executive Director of University Relations Steve Barba often phrases it, while we are building for the next generation.

Student focused on a computer screen.Through technology, PSU faculty and staff have been enhancing access and excellence. This year, four undergraduate degrees are offered fully online as well as on-site: Business, Communications and Media Studies, Criminal Justice, and Nursing (the completion program for registered nurses). Faculty are supported by professionals in Information Technology Services and in the Office of Learning Technologies and Online Education, where they can study the educational impact of emerging technologies. One student told me recently that the innovative learning in his online course was eye-opening. Plymouth State had entered the online arena early with first-rate graduate study, and the online MBA, offered for a decade, attracts professionals around the globe. This year, the national learning review GetEducated.com ranked PSU’s program in the top 20 on its list of “Best Online MBA Programs” in the country.

Through the College of Graduate Studies and the Division of Online and Continuing Studies, PSU this year had 5,000 online enrollments, for 15,000 credit hours, one-half of all online programming offered by the University System of New Hampshire. PSU provided 550 sections in fully online and hybrid formats, the latter combining online and face-to-face work. Those courses and programs provide wonderful flexible opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students who are working or overseas or place-bound. Current residential students also take advantage of online access, because it allows them to take additional coursework during the Winterim and summer sessions or to combine online and residential courses and earn their degrees more quickly.

Because students must be prepared for a global workplace and because international experiences are transformative and part of academic excellence, PSU has moved forward in international education. The University increasingly is and should be a multicultural community. This year the Global Education Office was recognized for “innovative work in education abroad” by the Center for International Studies with its first Going Places! Award before 8,500 people from 95 countries. At the same time, Vice President Jim Hundrieser and coordinator of international recruiting Dick Hage are expanding our partnership with ELS Educational Services to bring international students here. Plymouth State has been featured internationally as a host institution that integrates global experiences into the curriculum. The Center for Global Engagement in Mary Lyon Hall opened this autumn, offering a place for all students for international events and global programming. There are opportunities for students in Chile, China, Malaysia, Romania, and more.

Nursing student with patient.The campus also has looked to the evolving needs of New Hampshire and our region and responded. That is part of our mission as New Hampshire’s comprehensive university. New Hampshire has an aging population and a need for health care professionals, as does the nation. The recently established nursing program, geared toward the advanced “nurse of the future,” had two external reviews this year and was highly praised; in that praise we recognize as well our partners in Speare Memorial Hospital and Mary Hitchcock and others, who offer excellent clinical experiences for students. Business and industry partners confirm that the state needs Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math professionals, and with other University System institutions and those in the Community College System we are working to increase student enrollment in STEM fields. At last spring’s Commencement, we awarded our first doctorates of education in Learning, Leadership, and Community to wonderful educators who already are having a positive impact on education and our schools. It was a joy to see them walk across the stage in those deep Plymouth green doctoral robes and be hooded by their advisors and to learn about their research. They are developing collaborative initiatives and receiving grants for significant projects; one doctoral student’s book on literacy instruction has just gone to press.

When alumni speak of a PSU education, they speak of it as personal in the mentoring they received from faculty and staff and active in their engagement with real-world projects and hands-on learning. To advance that research and engagement, a faculty fellow position was redefined this year, and Thad Guldbrandsen, formerly director of the Center for Rural Partnerships, was named vice provost for research and engagement. During this year’s student research symposium on April 26th and 27th, colleagues and guests will be able to see the high quality of students’ scholarship and creativity.Rebecca "Becca" Jacobson As samples of student work this year, Rebecca M. Jacobson (Environmental Science and Policy) participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates program that took her to the Abisko Research Station in Sweden, where she studied mercury dynamics. Undergraduates Abby Tibbetts and Dave Tardif (Biology) presented their research on the biological clock in horseshoe crabs to New Hampshire legislators in Concord. Art students who created the murals on Berlin’s Brown Company R&D Building saw a documentary on their work and were honored with the 2012 Preservation Achievement Award from the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance for outstanding education and advocacy.

Faculty are active in providing students with opportunities to demonstrate their work, develop professionally, and secure internships and positions by supporting student presentations at professional meetings and by bringing distinguished guests to campus. Our students impress those they meet. This year, the Office of Career Services has been enhanced, and manager Jim Kuras is partnering with Alumni Relations, University Studies, and academic departments to strengthen career offerings for students. A survey conducted by University Advancement indicated that many alumni are eager to assist our students with their career development.

Sustainability, too, is part of the Plymouth experience. With the guidance of Brian Eisenhauer, director of sustainability and the Helen Abbott Professor of Environmental Studies, students have updated the sustainability handbook and developed a green office program. They participated in the National Recycling Competition and led campus initiatives, as did faculty members like Jeremiah Duncan (Atmospheric Science and Chemistry), who coordinated with students a Plymouth clean-up campaign. Sodexo at PSU is the first college food service to be certified by the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association as an “Environmental Champion.” And, for the third year, PSU was recognized in the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges as among the most environmentally responsible colleges in North America.

Museum of the White MountainsCampus initiatives demonstrate creativity and care for our region. The Museum of the White Mountains, designed to preserve and promote the history, culture, and environmental legacy of the White Mountains, opened in February, and already is establishing for PSU an identity as a place for learning about the Whites, allowing us to draw on our wonderful location. Director Catherine Amidon has engaged students in all aspects of the museum, from doing research to creating curriculum guides and planning the permaculture landscaping, as has faculty fellow Marcia Schmidt Blaine (History and Philosophy). The museum this year received three new collections: one of White Mountains art by women artists from Frances “Dolly” MacIntyre; another of pieces associated with THE BALSAMS Grand Resort Hotel from Steve Barba, former hotel president and managing partner and PSU’s executive director of University Relations; and a third of 6.000 volumes of rare books, maps, and historical documents from John W. (Jack) and Anne H. Newton. The current exhibit, Passing Through: The Allure of the White Mountains, funded by private support, is beautifully done. As we thank our off-campus advisors and our donors, I also want to thank many people on campus for excellent work, including the physical plant and ITS teams, University Advancement, and Public Relations.

Another initiative is the Enterprise Center at Plymouth (ECP), a business incubator and accelerator developed with the Grafton County Economic Development Council (GCEDC). With federal funding, the GCEDC purchased property in Plymouth and with PSU raised $2 million dollars from federal, regional, and state sources for the building, which the GCEDC will own and operate. The building opens in August, and its first anchor tenant will be Narrative1, a rapidly growing software firm created by PSU alumnus Tom Armstrong ’90. PSU is providing the ECP programming, under the leadership of executive director and College of Business Administration faculty member Michael Tentnowski, creating jobs for the region and opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and alumni in business, graphic design, communications and media study, computer science, and more, working closely with entrepreneurs. The ECP is supporting virtual clients now; it has served over 100 participants through seminars and already placed five students in internships with ECP firms.

As a regional comprehensive university, we fulfill our responsibility to the region in many ways. One example is a three-year Suicide Prevention Grant of $278,000 from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to assemble a Suicide Prevention Advisory Board of campus and community partners to increase mental health awareness and implement training on how to help those in need. Last week, PSU’s Center for the Environment hosted New Hampshire’s Water and Watershed Conference, addressing the clean water so critical to our state’s quality of life and tourism, and PSU hosted with the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance a conference on historic preservation’s role in a sustainable future. “TIGER Takes On Bullying,” produced with New Hampshire Public Television, premiered at the Flying Monkey; the show is a 30-minute television special to help children, schools, parents, and communities deal proactively with bullying. People at PSU are coordinating programs in math education for the schools, National History Day, watershed management with the Squam Lakes Association, professional development for rural educators, and forest management with the White Mountain National Forest.

Marking the Moment stage production.Two initiatives with our host communities of Plymouth and Holderness deserve special note. This year is the 250th anniversary of the Town of Plymouth, and community members from town and campus are engaged in a celebration that began with the Educational Theatre Collaborative’s production of an original historical musical on Plymouth, Marking the Moment, with lyrics by Trish Lindberg (Educational Leadership, Learning and Curriculum) and Manuel Marquez-Sterling (Social Science) and music by Will Ogmundsen, a New Hampshire composer; the celebration will continue through the summer. The second initiative is a new partnership being led by the Plymouth Rotary on behalf of the wise use of the Pemi River and Livermore Falls sites, about which you will hear more soon.

PSU students this year contributed hundreds of thousands of hours to community engagement and benefited from the mentorship of those in our host communities and region, and PSU again was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. I regularly receive comments about students; two mentors who guided students recently described them as “motivated, creative, actively engaged, respectful, even kind”—and said they could go on. Those are wonderful words from people giving of themselves to guide our students.

Let me pause for a few samples of recent student, staff, and faculty recognition:

  • Valerie Schlegel (double major in Spanish Language and Literature and in Political Science) received the Gilman International Scholarship Award to study in Argentina, the first time a PSU student has been recognized by the Institute of International Education.
  • Sam Wisel (Business ’12, now in University Advancement) was named a national Newman Civic Fellow for his commitment to creating lasting change in his community, one of 162 students nationwide believed to be among the next generation of the nation’s civic leaders.
  • The Athletic Training program was recognized with the national Cramer Professional Development Award for student community service and its strong academic program. Students sitting for certification had a 100 percent pass rate, compared with approximately 65 percent nationwide.
  • Student teams from the MBA program earned two “Project of the Year” awards in the National Small Business Institute® Competition for the second consecutive year, the first time any school has achieved that distinction. Retiring director Craig Zamzow was named an SBI Fellow, the organization’s highest honor.
  • Gary Goodnough (Counselor Education and School Psychology) was named the Marijane Fall Counselor Educator of the Year as a national leader in the counseling profession by the North Atlantic Region Association for Counselor Education and Supervision.
  • Marjorie King (Health and Human Performance) was inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame. King is one of only 271 (and 12 female) inductees in the history of the organization to receive the Hall of Fame designation, the highest honor an athletic trainer can receive.
  • Shandra McLane (Art) was named a 2012 Remarkable Woman by New Hampshire Magazine for taking her artistic work in fused glass to extraordinary levels of technique and imagination.
  • The Panther field hockey team captured the ECAC Division III New England championship; Casey Stoodley (Physical Education) was named Division III Honorable Mention All America, the first Panther ever to be named for volleyball; the New England Football Conference Academic All-Conference team included 17 Panther student-athletes, 7 for the second straight year, and 3 for the third consecutive year; and men’s hockey won the MASCAC title for the second consecutive year, both men’s and women’s hockey teams saw post-season play, and coaches Ashley Kilstein and Craig Russell were both named coach of the year.
  • Irene Cucina (Health and Human Performance), president of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, led in the development of a new national Presidential Youth Fitness Program. The goal is a new era in children’s health and wellness.
  • Athletic Director John P. Clark and fellow alumnus and former men’s basketball star Adam DeChristopher ’00 were named to the inaugural Little East Conference Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Providence.
  • Stephen Gorin (Social Work) was named chair of New Hampshire’s State Committee on Aging, the committee to make recommendations regarding policy and procedures to best protect the wellbeing, rights, and quality of life of older citizens.

We can be proud of Plymouth’s people, of what PSU is, and what PSU is building.

This year the campus has a number of planning processes under way, part of the ongoing conversation about “building for the next generation.” And that means referring back to the kinds of higher education questions I mentioned at beginning of this address. Who will our students be, and how do we provide the education that will transform their lives?

Students outside.Today our students come from 43 states and 34 countries, and 58 percent of undergraduates are from New Hampshire. Forty-four percent of first-year students are the first in their families to attend college, and PSU’s students persist and graduate at significantly higher rates than national averages. Demographics across New England show declining numbers of high school graduates through 2021, and there are new audiences in adults who are shifting careers or come from geographic locations with demographics that differ from New England’s. Students planning to enroll may vary more in age and seek flexible educational options.

One challenge for the future, then, is enrollment management, broadly defined. And meeting the challenge belongs to us all, not just to Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Jim Hundrieser or Director of Admissions Andy Palumbo.

First and foremost in enrollment management are strong academic programs and facilities that enable students to succeed at the highest levels. Faculty members can be proud that PSU’s programs attract students from New England to China, but no institution can be static. Over the past two years, colleagues have examined PSU in preparation for next year’s accreditation review by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The Planning and Budgeting Leadership Group is guiding a strategic plan. Provost Julie Bernier has asked faculty members to consider the changing educational landscape, to explore ideas and engage the imagination. As we look to new markets, what should be done through technology? What best through other modes? Most of us believe that residential campuses will continue, and the most successful ones will be distinctive and offer an education that is increasingly value-added. How can we enhance campus learning? Some faculty are exploring contemplative teaching, looking to deepen student learning. What are the most useful co-curricular programs? In this, we also employ relevant data about current and potential student interests in order to meet our mission and employ resources wisely.

View of Rounds Tower.Space and facilities matter, and consultants are meeting with the campus to determine current and future needs so that we utilize space as effectively as possible. Academic planning is being coordinated with a ten-year facilities master plan, the latter under the leadership of Vice President for Finance and Administration Steve Taksar. We know, for example, the effect of the Boyd expansion, from new majors and increased students and faculty members in the sciences, to a Center for the Environment and over $10 million in research funding and $2 million in gifts. The Hanaway Rink and Savage Welcome Center, the first phase of ALLWell (for Active Living, Learning, and Wellness) has enabled new classes and wonderful opportunities for students in athletics and recreation, as well as supporting student recruitment and community programming. The next phases of ALLWell also are important, enabling the Department of Health and Human Performance to expand its capacity for students in much-needed health and wellness fields, supporting academic programming including exercise prescription, physiological and cardiac testing, health and wellness, and laboratories for student and faculty research; as well as athletic and recreational opportunities for the three-quarters of undergraduates who use the facilities, affecting both recruitment and retention—not to mention employee health and wellness. Space on the Plymouth side of campus will need repurposing and remodeling. At a recent career fair, one speaker described ours as the most beautiful campus in the state. I think all of us are proud and should thank Ellen Shippee and the physical plant team for their care.

Enrollment management also requires an investment in technological infrastructure and content. This year PSU is moving to a customer relationship management (CRM) application to serve potential and current students more effectively, building embedded videos to tell the PSU story, and providing a Virtual Campus Experience online. In the more competitive environment we have entered, branding, communications, and marketing play a new role.

Thank you to all who have been participating in these thoughtful conversations. And I know there have been many, many of them. As a campus we will integrate the thinking and assess the outcomes and then do it again. How we talk together and make decisions effectively will matter. You should know that the University System Board of Trustees has changed its procedures to provide the campuses more autonomy and flexibility. More decisions will be final here on campus, with accountability to the Board, but fewer approvals that reduce our ability to move quickly. At this time, I also note other changes: former chancellor Ed MacKay retired earlier this month, and with us today is Todd Leach, president of Granite State College and interim chancellor; Anne Huot, the incoming president of Keene State College, was approved and introduced to Keene yesterday; and this year we lost two former trustees and true champions for education in Eugene Savage and John Crosier. Both will be missed.

Another challenge is the cost of higher education. Certainly we are working to enhance revenues in order to keep tuition and fees reasonable. PSU recently has been awarded research funding of just over $3.6 million, and the total funding of grants and contracts the Office of Sponsored Programs is managing is just over $10.5 million. Those dollars enable exciting opportunities for students, staff, and faculty members. University Advancement, led by Vice President Sally Holland, is actively engaging alumni and friends as donors to scholarship funds, capital projects, and the Annual Fund. All unrestricted Annual Fund gifts directly support the operating budget, and our volunteer fundraising board, the President’s Council, has participated with 100 percent annual giving.

And we are working with the governor and the legislature. Even before the legislative reductions of the last biennium, we were cost-effective and prudent, spending approximately 20 percent less per student than many comparable institutions, and with a higher proportion of that spending applied to direct instruction for our students. We have worked to reduce ongoing energy expenses and to enhance the use of technology in institutional processes, again reducing costs as responsible stewards. When the state appropriation was reduced by 49 percent, we came together in campus forums and maintained our commitment to students and absorbed 80 percent of the reduction through voluntary separation plans, salary and hiring freezes, and reduced benefits. We deferred some investments. Over the past decade, Plymouth State had seen increases in student numbers, in students with financial need, and in the amount of aid students needed, and we had increased the proportion of state appropriation devoted to aid for New Hampshire students. During the last biennium, we maintained that aid, demonstrating our dedication to students. The Operating Staff and the Professional, Administrative, and Technical employees (PATs) increased their personal scholarship giving; and the faculty created a new fund, the Supporting Our Students Faculty Scholarship.

Nonetheless there was an increase in tuition, and New Hampshire citizens and families rightly are concerned about the state’s support of higher education. This year, all of the University System residential campuses saw a decline in New Hampshire students, some of whom may have chosen to attend community colleges or schools out of state, some of whom may have decided not to further their education. The loss of those students has a significant impact on our operating budget and on our public mission. New Hampshire is aging and many adults will be leaving the workforce; the in-migration of educated adults has slowed; and national data indicates that New Hampshire ranks seventh in the nation in the high proportion of jobs that will require a bachelor’s degree by 2018, only five years from now. Students with degrees will earn more and be less subject to economic downturns. We also know what an education means at the most fundamental level, and it is more than jobs, however important they are. It is about one’s mind and life.

As a result we are working actively with Governor Hassan and the legislature to restore our appropriation and to continue the state’s investment in our buildings. Governor Hassan has proposed to increase the University System appropriation from its current $55 million to $75 million in the first year of the biennium and $90 million in the second, and we will freeze tuition for two years and increase merit, need, and STEM aid to New Hampshire students. We have a strong advocacy campaign, led on campus by Steve Barba with colleagues across the University System. I have testified before various committees, as have Plymouth State faculty and staff, students, parents, friends, trustees, and alumni, and materials are available online at PSU Works for New Hampshire. New Hampshire is a grass roots democracy, and we are reaching out to state legislators to reestablish and enhance our partnership with New Hampshire.

In sum, Plymouth State is a community where people collaborate so that current students and the next generation of students will thrive. When we look at an incoming class, we know that education is personal, and our students have names: Alex, Jill, Ryan, Lexi, Ben or Becca. Building for the next generation will require intelligence and flexibility and a willingness to take appropriate risks. It was not easy in 1913, but they accomplished much, and so will we. Thank you for letting me share the journey with you.

Plymouth State University Class of 2016

Plymouth State University Class of 2016

Testimony by Sara Jayne Steen before the Governor’s FY2014-15 Operating Budget Hearing

November 27th, 2012 by Tim

Governor’s FY2014-15 Operating Budget Hearing

26 November 2012

Testimony by Sara Jayne Steen

President of Plymouth State University

 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak about the University System’s pledge and our commitment to New Hampshire, its economy, and its families.

Plymouth State University is a comprehensive university, focused on first-rate education informed by vibrant research and creativity and characterized by engagement with the people, schools, and businesses of New Hampshire.  Recently PSU has earned state and national recognition for academic innovation, environmental sustainability, international opportunities, community engagement, and economic partnership.  PSU serves over 7300 students, and thousands of others in New Hampshire attend campus workshops and arts and cultural events or are impacted by programs such as TIGER, which partners with schools on issues such as how to combat bullying and has been viewed by 300,000 schoolchildren.  Last year, PSU awarded 1400 degrees through the doctorate, and half of our alumni, now in the tens of thousands, stay in New Hampshire and contribute to the state’s vitality.

Like our sister institutions, PSU is cost-effective, operating approximately 15% more efficiently than our peers and delivering academic excellence.  PSU is committed to students; even as we coped with the difficult reduction in appropriation, we increased financial aid and employees enhanced their scholarship giving.  PSU collaborates to increase access for citizens, with 80 transfer agreements with the community colleges and a North Country Teacher Certification Program offered jointly with White Mountains Community College whereby students can complete a 4-year degree on the Berlin campus with the first two years delivered by WMCC and the last two by PSU.

PSU also enhances access through online learning.  This year, in addition to the high-quality graduate degrees offered online, four undergraduate programs are available: business administration, communications and media studies, criminal justice, and nursing (a degree completion for associate degree registered nurses).  And PSU is expanding programs in critical fields for the state, such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (or STEM) fields; has added a strong nursing degree; and is increasing investments in projects such as the Center for Active Living, Learning and Wellness, which will expand the workforce in wellness and allied health sciences.

To drive economic development, PSU is launching with the Grafton County Economic Development Council a business incubator and accelerator, the Enterprise Center at Plymouth.  It will draw on faculty and students from PSU’s nationally recognized College of Business Administration and offer physical and virtual services so that new and existing New Hampshire businesses thrive.  Students provide hundreds of thousands of hours each year on environmental research or arts projects or consulting with businesses and non-profits, serving New Hampshire as students engage in hands-on learning and prepare for successful careers. Although those contributions are not part of the University System’s economic impact report, they are meaningful.  The list goes on.

President Huddleston and I speak briefly today for us all:  President Kahn of Keene State College and President Leach of Granite State College have similar stories of transforming students’ lives, of Keene State’s partnerships for advanced manufacturing or Granite State’s new co-location with Nashua Community College.

For those of us in the University System, student successes have faces and names: Alexandra, Matthew, Samantha, or Connor.  Education is personal, one student at a time, and we know the many hours that New Hampshire students work beyond their classes, the debt they assume, and the support and sacrifices of their families.  Some students may not continue in school.  Some will leave the state to study, and they may not return.  New Hampshire wants to attract and create businesses, and a healthy economy requires excellent, affordable education.  We ask that you help us to help students.

The University System brings much more to New Hampshire’s economy than it did a decade ago and serves many more students.  Education is the backbone of the economy, and STEM and health programs are more expensive than ever. Our proposal that our appropriation be restored in exchange for freezing tuition has achieved broad popular support.  According to a recent Granite State poll, 71% of New Hampshire adults support restoring the appropriation along the lines we have described.  In addition, we have received specific endorsements from business leaders around the state who believe that an investment in public higher education is essential to the future of the New Hampshire economy and its workforce.  Some of them have spoken up; others will be doing so. More than 1,400 of our New Hampshire alumni, parents, friends, and students have told us they will be active in their own communities in support of this initiative. That number is growing.

We hope that you will support us in this initiative. We look forward to reaffirming our historic partnership with the State of New Hampshire in service to the well being of its citizens.

The Plymouth Commitment: Faculty Day Address

September 5th, 2012 by Tim

The Plymouth Commitment
Faculty Day Address

Sara Jayne Steen, President, Plymouth State University
Plymouth, New Hampshire
August 29, 2012

Good morning.  This is a wonderful time of year for academics, and faculty week is a valued Plymouth State tradition that is unique in my experience, a week of excitement and focus, the reunion of friends and welcoming of new colleagues, the exchange of ideas that energizes us as we begin the academic year together.

Two weeks ago, PSU again was recognized for excellence, this time as a 2012 “Great College to Work for” by the Chronicle of Higher Education.  One of the categories for which PSU was recognized, based on an external assessment and a survey of faculty and professional staff, was teaching environment, which includes educational innovation and commitment to student success.  Asked to comment, Faculty Speaker Francis Williams said, “What makes PSU a great place to work is the collegiality of the faculty and their commitment to the students.  It is a commitment that I experience and observe each and every day in my collaborations with colleagues and in my interactions with students.”

We see that commitment in the vitality of the campus and in people’s willingness to extend themselves for students, in faculty fundraising for student scholarships through a summer garden tour or a barbequed ribs competition.  (And the PATs and Operating Staff similarly support scholarships for students.) You see it in the videos that Director of Advancement Communications Heidi Pettigrew and her student videographers created of last year’s top 20 seniors speaking of their experiences and mentors.  The videos were playing as you entered Hanaway Theatre.  During alumni weekend in June, we heard about commitment from the class of ’62, reminiscing as they celebrated their 50th anniversary.  Afterwards, I telephoned retired professor Norton Bagley, who had been unable to attend and had been widely praised by the class of ’62.  Dr. Bagley said that personal commitment to students was part of Plymouth even when he arrived as a student in the late 1930s.  His comment suggests a legacy at Plymouth that is hard to define, but an essence we should be careful, however we change, to hold onto.

We are and will be changing, as the higher education landscape is changing, with demographics that have implications about which you will hear more from new Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Jim Hundrieser.  Technology is shifting our understanding of access, delivery, even our role in the certification of learning.  At an alumni event on the seacoast this weekend, I was asked by someone starting his first MOOC (or massive open online course) what that technology means for PSU and for graduate and continuing education — and how we are responding. Provost Julie Bernier, Assistant Vice President and CIO Rich Grossman, and Director of Learning Technologies and Online Education Scott Robison will lead discussions today as we contemplate possibilities and opportunities.  The issues are many.  Globalization and how best to prepare students for international careers.  How best to create and articulate the value-added distinctiveness of the residential campus’s face-to-face experience.  How to create a niche through projects like the Museum of the White Mountains, which will officially open this February. How to make the case for public higher education as some question the value for students of what we are dedicating our lives to.

This year faculty members will have the opportunity to participate in significant discussions associated with the University’s future and directions.   Faculty member Terri Dautcher and Associate Vice President Linda Dauer and the Planning and Budgeting Leadership Group will be guiding the campus strategic planning process.  We also will begin a 10-year master planning process for facilities, including a space inventory that will involve many of you, to make sure we know the current and planned academic programs, a process coordinated by Vice President for Finance and Administration Steve Taksar.  Clearly any effective facilities study must be very closely coordinated with academic planning.  We are moving forward on the detailed plans for the next phase of ALLWell (or the Center for Active Living, Learning and Wellness), of which the Hanaway Rink and Savage Welcome Center were the first phase.  And all this comes, appropriately I hope, as we are preparing the NEASC accreditation self-study, which focuses campus thinking on where we are and might be.  Thank you to all who are participating in that process – it matters.

There are some changes at the University System level as well.  Like many public boards of higher education across the country now, the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees has looked at our overall structure and developed a change management task force to suggest ways to provide more autonomy to the campuses and allow the four institutions increased flexibility in planning, while still offering a well-coordinated system of public higher education to New Hampshire.  That change is intended to allow us to make decisions more quickly on many academic issues while the councils of presidents, provosts, and others continue to collaborate.  There also will be personnel changes at the System level, as Chancellor Ed MacKay, now in his 4th year, has announced his retirement this March after a long and successful career with USNH. A search for his successor is beginning.  A search also is under way for a president at Keene State College following the departure of Helen Giles-Gee.  Jay Kahn is serving as interim president.

As an update on legislative action from last spring, I am pleased to report that the New Hampshire Senate rejected two House bills, one to allow weapons on campus and another to reduce the University System office to a dozen people, a shift that would have eliminated shared services that the campus then would have had to assume at significant cost.

This year PSU will be working with legislators and other stakeholders to advocate for public higher education in New Hampshire and for our students and their families.  We need to clarify the link between state appropriation and the cost of attendance at USNH institutions, especially the three residential campuses.  It is not an easy concept.  We have determined, however, that if the legislature continues to support facilities and restores the appropriation to 2010 levels, we can freeze in-state tuition for the two years of the upcoming biennium, which will be meaningful to New Hampshire students and their families.  Executive Director of University Relations Steve Barba will be leading PSU’s advocacy efforts to explain how public higher education and PSU work for New Hampshire.  We make a difference in New Hampshire, and around the world, and we work to be effective stewards; studies indicate that we are more efficient and cost-effective than our comparators in other states. The state appropriation is the margin that explains why NH’s cost of attendance is among the highest of public systems in the nation.

As a public institution, we also receive from the state capital support for our buildings, which contributes to our institutional success by helping us to maintain and build academic facilities.  In a previous capital budget request, Boyd Hall was expanded and remodeled, and our science programs greatly have benefitted.  The next three phases of ALLWell, which will house the Department of Health and Human Performance and include high-tech classrooms and research laboratories as well as space for athletics and recreation, are in the University System of New Hampshire’s capital budget request for the next three biennia.  I testified at the Governor’s Budget hearing on capital requests at the end of June, and in my next monthly report I will provide a link to that testimony.  In the meantime, Vice President for University Advancement Sally Holland and the Advancement team are working to engage private support on behalf of PSU’s priorities, from student scholarships to capital projects; and Vice Provost for Research and Engagement Thad Guldbrandsen will be working to expand the sources of revenue for the good work being done by the faculty, staff, and students.

The autumn enrollment report is mixed this year, after several years of increasing numbers.  Enrollment is down approximately 150 students, especially New Hampshire students, though we better will know final numbers in a couple of weeks.  The incoming class is slightly below the last two years for the incoming class, again in New Hampshire students, and that concerns us, as it does those at the other two USNH residential campuses, who are experiencing similar numbers.  The difference may be in the cost of attendance, which did increase as a result of the reduced state appropriation, even though only 20% of the reduction was managed through tuition. Approximately 44% of our undergraduates are the first in their families to attend college, and those families often have fewer resources on which to draw until the economy more fully recovers to its new normal.  We also are hearing anecdotally that some guidance counselors misunderstood the 48% reduction in state appropriation — which took approximately 13% of our operating budget to 6% – to have reduced USNH overall budgets by 48%, with attendant concerns about damage to programs. Out-of-state enrollment, however, has held steady, indicating that PSU’s academic programs and friendly, beautiful campus continue to be attractive.  International recruiting is increasing, and the new International Center in Mary Lyon opens this fall.  Over this academic year, all of us will be joining Jim Hundrieser and his team to enhance enrollment and retention.  Approximately 80% of our annual operating budget is tuition, so any change affects the budget, but our mission is education: we think of what education means to students and their families, and the decision not to attend could affect generations.

As you will have guessed, the cabinet and I will wait until final enrollment numbers are available before announcing salaries. I have asked Human Resources to examine equity for OS and PATs this year, as we have over the past two years examined equity for faculty, and HR Director Elaine Doell will lead that effort. On a related note, the PSU wellness initiative, Healthy People in a Healthy Place, led by Barb McCahan and Becky Busanich, has received system funding and will be moving forward.  This is a wellness project researched and based at Plymouth State and designed for our community’s needs.   Barb and Becky deserve thanks for developing the program.

Thank you to many for helping our students understand their role as members of our host communities of Holderness and Plymouth.  Last year, a number of faculty members worked with the Student Affairs team and with students and student groups to emphasize mutual respect, and the difference in behavior was appreciated.  This year also will mark important anniversaries in Plymouth.    St. Matthew’s Parish will mark its 100th anniversary, and the Town of Plymouth, incorporated in 1763, its 250th.  The latter will be commemorated with an ETC production this January and three days of events, including collaborative community-university projects, next July.

As there are challenges, there is also much to celebrate.  Shaney McLane, adjunct faculty member in art, early this summer was named by New Hampshire Magazine a 2012 Remarkable Woman for her artistic vision and imagination; in June, the Global Education Office was recognized by the Center for International Studies with their first Going Places! Award in recognition of their “innovative work in education abroad”; at the end of June, Margie King (Health and Human Performance) was inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s Hall of Fame, the highest honor in her field.   The list goes on, and other exciting announcements are being prepared.  Today we distribute Excellence, celebrating PSU faculty and staff achievements, and today we recognize distinguished faculty members with awards for service and research and the student-initiated award for advising.  I’ll now ask Provost Bernier to introduce these awards.

Testimony before the Governor’s Hearing on the Capital Budget

July 3rd, 2012 by Eric

Governor’s Hearing on the Capital Budget
Rooms 210-11, LOB
21 June 2012

Testimony by Sara Jayne Steen
President, Plymouth State University

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you.  As Chancellor MacKay noted, the outcomes of investments in KEEP (the Knowledge Economy Education Plan), a partnership between the state and its University System, have been impressive. The major Plymouth State University project funded by KEEP was a renovation and expansion of Boyd Hall, the campus’s primary science and laboratory facility.

Among the outcomes have been:

  • An expansion of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs needed by the state’s schools and employers, with undergraduate programs in Environmental Science, Chemistry Education, Biotechnology, and Neuroscience, and graduate programs in Environmental Science, Biology, Meteorology, and Science Education.  Undergraduate annual enrollments in these critical fields have more than doubled to 311 students this year, and graduate enrollments increased by 1400%, to 72 students.
  • Workforce enhancement.  Students have won national awards for excellence, and many are entering the state’s schools as educators, impacting future students’ interest in science and technology, and the state’s businesses as science and technology professionals, advancing New Hampshire’s ability to compete economically.
  • Creation of centers of excellence.  The Judd Gregg Meteorology Institute has developed partnerships with the National Weather Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, and other agencies, with students studying wind patterns and hurricanes. In the Center for the Environment, faculty and students work with partners on projects from water quality in Newfound Lake to soil studies in the White Mountain National Forest.
  • External funding and economic development.  Following the infusion of new faculty and students from new academic programs, faculty have generated over $10 million in grant funding supporting student and faculty research and outreach, with solid benefits to New Hampshire, as well as nearly $2 million from private sources.  The average annual economic impact to the region for equipment, services, and salaries associated with these projects has been strong.

None of this would have been possible without the KEEP investments.  We expect similar outcomes from the state’s prospective investment in KEEP-UP, which includes PSU’s Active Living, Learning, and Wellness (ALLWell) Center.

The ALLWell Center will allow PSU better to meet its mission, with improved classroom and laboratory space for our third-largest department, Health and Human Performance (HHP), and important athletic and recreational spaces for all students.  It will replace an outdated, aging facility built in 1968 for a very small student body and now in such poor condition that replacement is more cost effective than renovation; advance our student recruiting and allow for new academic majors and options related to health and wellness; increase our ability to attract external funding through sponsored research; and allow for additional community programming, economic development, and critical workforce development in much needed fields of health and wellness.

PSU’s current physical education building damages our ability to advance the campus mission. The building was a state-of-the-art facility in 1968, but it has simply outlived its service life.  In recent years, PSU has had to commit $1.75 million to basic maintenance, and an external study concluded that it is more cost effective to replace rather than to continue to repair and renovate the facility.  The building was designed when the campus had 1200 students, not our current 7200 (4200 undergraduates and 3000 graduate students).  Nearly eight hundred current students are involved in athletics, two-thirds of undergraduates engage in recreational and intramural sports, and one-third take physical activity courses or are in majors associated with Health and Human Performance. The building was designed when building codes were very different, creating challenges for the campus to meet the changing Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and life safety standards. The facilities assessment study concluded straightforwardly that the facility is unable to meet current or future needs.

The campus’s academic programs also are different than they were in 1968. The Health and Human Performance department, which at one time consisted of physical education, now houses thirteen multidisciplinary undergraduate and graduate programs that prepare students to enter the workforce in much-needed positions in healthcare, exercise prescription, cardiac rehabilitation, health fitness, coaching, athletic training (an allied health medical profession), adventure education, and health and physical education. Students conduct research in exercise physiology and work with faculty members on topics from reducing childhood obesity to keeping older adults active.  Graduates of the department will become athletic trainers, fitness specialists, clinicians, business owners, and more.  A federally funded Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities focusing on rural wellness and the needs of rural communities is based in the department.  Faculty members are working at national levels and attracting funding from sources such as the National Institutes of Health.  With appropriate facilities, they can accomplish much more, and one of the greatest areas of state need and job growth will be in health care.

The ALLWell Phases

Phase I of this project, for which we are not requesting funding, is a building that combines the Eugene and Joan Savage Welcome Center and the Hanaway Rink, completed in the summer of 2010.  This facility is a self-supporting auxiliary building and was funded through HEFA bonds, fundraising, and student fees, with the only state dollars being $600,000 in CDFA tax credits for economic development.  (An economic impact report indicated that the building means $2.3 million annually in increased visitation and nearly 20 additional jobs to the region.)  In the past year and a half, we have seen the difference that such a facility can make: opportunities for athletic training and performance analysis, support for a major in sports management, ice-related classes; a winter training site for EMTs, adult and youth hockey programs, and a presence for the chamber of commerce. On the men’s hockey team, 17 of 27 players received academic recognition; and the team won its first conference championship and engaged in NCAA DIII tournament play.  Phase I has confirmed our sense of what the completed Center will mean for the campus and for the state.

Phases II-IV, which are not auxiliaries and are included in KEEP-UP, will be transformative in their impact on teaching, research, athletics and recreation, community programming, and economic and workforce development.  Construction of the integrated facility in phases allows minimal disruption to students and programs. Phase II: ALLWell North will support HHP academic programming, including exercise and prescription testing, cardio-classes and laboratories, student and faculty research that requires large controlled space, adventure education and physical activity programming.  It will include the field house, the Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities, and the mechanical infrastructure for phases III and IV.  Phase III:  ALLWell West includes classrooms, laboratories, research facilities, multi-purpose teaching spaces; a lecture hall; activity spaces; offices for the HHP department; and an aquatic center with a pool, diving well, and locker rooms.  Phase IV:  ALLWell East includes classrooms, research laboratories, offices; the athletic training suite; the strength and conditioning facility; the gymnasium, wrestling room, practice room, and public lobby.

In sum, ALLWell will allow PSU better to meet its mission in serving students and the state of New Hampshire and creating the health and wellness workforce needed for New Hampshire’s future.

Plymouth State University: Educational Innovation and Collaboration

March 28th, 2012 by Hyung Park


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State of the University Address
President Sara Jayne Steen
Plymouth State University
28 March 2012

Welcome to today’s state of the university address, a time to look at the University as a whole, to celebrate some of the year’s successes and to discuss challenges.  Welcome both to members of the campus community and to our guests, members of our wider community.  Thank you all for being here.

Although the weather here over spring break was unseasonably warm, sunny, and beautiful, especially given that it is March and mud season, and although we had the familiar sounds of the Rounds Tower bells marking the hours, the other sounds of the campus last week were missing and now, thankfully, are back.  Quiet and occasionally less-than-entirely-quiet discussions in the library and the HUB.  Music being rehearsed, sometimes on the amphitheatre steps outside Silver Center.  Guitars and occasionally drums being played on Alumni Green.  The murmur of people talking on cell phones as they walk across campus.  The calls of student camaraderie, punctuated by laughter.  The voices of children from the Center for Young Children and Families .  It is good to have back the sounds that define our Plymouth campus world.

Our academic world, of course, is much larger than the Plymouth campus, and this is an uncertain time globally and nationally, requiring innovation and a willingness to take appropriate risks, to find new ways to accomplish old and new goals and to acquire new partners with whom to collaborate.  Within all of that challenge and change, however, is and must be a core of educational mission, a certainty of what PSU offers students, of our commitment to them.

Last year PSU acquired unpublished manuscript letters from poet Robert Frost to President Ernest Silver.  Frost had taught here in 1911-12, and writing from England in 1913 after having met William Butler Yeats, Frost recalled having read a Yeats play to students in the parlor, bringing to students one of the era’s exciting contemporary writers.  Three decades later, after World War II, Frost wrote of President Silver and Plymouth on its 75th anniversary:  “It warms the heart with reassurance to look on at anything that persists so successfully in this world of broken pieces.”  Today, both the innovation and the core remain.

What do we count on?

Our students.  Plymouth State University attracts excellent students who care about education.  This year’s entering class of 1100 students was drawn from 6000 applicants, our highest number to date, and students came from California to Maine, and from China, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela.  They brought diverse experiences, such as having left a refugee camp in Tanzania to emigrate to the United States; spent summers caring for disabled children or climbing New Hampshire’s 4000-footers; or started their own businesses.  Forty-four percent are the first in their families to attend college.  Of our 7600 students, 4600 are undergraduates and 3000 graduate students.  Of our undergraduates, 59 percent are New Hampshire residents and 41 percent chose to come from elsewhere.  Overall, our undergraduate and graduate students, including online students, come from 43 states and 34 countries.  These students are drawn to PSU’s academic quality and friendly, beautiful campus.

At PSU, students are challenged and supported through small classes; an integrated general education program; an honors program; winterim, summer, and online courses; study abroad; internships; a wide range of student life activities; and more.  This year, the University Studies program, directed by Patrick Cate and with advisors to guide students as they choose degree options meaningful to them, was expanded to serve all first-year deciding students.  In the 2011 National Survey of Student Engagement, PSU received considerably higher overall scores from both first-year and senior students than our national peers, based on factors such as academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, and supportive campus environment.  All of us can be pleased about that.  On a more anecdotal level, when the Vice President of the United States visited this autumn and engaged in a question-and-answer session, many of you likely were as proud as I was of our students’ knowledge, thoughtfulness, and readiness to engage him in discussion.

Another certainty is a vibrant faculty and staff who develop programs and initiatives that enhance students’ experiences and their employment options.  Responding to a nationwide and statewide nursing shortage and a call for a more highly educated nursing workforce, this autumn PSU added to our health and wellness options a nursing program that began with 92 eager and highly qualified students.  The program has a four-year track for new students and a completion track for RNs who hold associate’s degrees.  The completion track will be offered online, and PSU is partnering with the Community College System of New Hampshire to offer their students advanced coursework.  Nursing students already have begun the clinical portion of their programs, with local hospitals and health care providers as educational collaborators, including Concord, Cottage, Littleton Regional, Mary Hitchcock Memorial, and Speare Memorial Hospitals.

The recently launched Professional Sales Leadership program, one of only 60 in the nation, has grown, and students have been active with the Plymouth Shop Local program and the Whole Village Family Resource Center, learning while serving.  An undergraduate international business option has been approved.  Faculty in various fields have collaborated with state partners to create a master’s degree in Historic Preservation.  This spring, we will graduate our first cohort of approximately 30 students from the MBA in Healthcare Administration offered with the medical school at the American University of Antigua; and the first recipients of PSU’s Doctor of Education in Learning, Leadership, and Community will cross the stage at Commencement.  That initial doctoral cohort includes three of our colleagues, Cheryl Baker, June Hammond Rowan, and Jamie Hannon.

When I meet with prospective students at open houses, I speak of PSU as a regional comprehensive university and explain what that means in terms of first-rate teaching, informed by excellent research and creativity, and engagement with the community, region, and world.  I tell students, “Bring a laptop and a passport.”

The laptop is to indicate that technology is one of PSU’s initiatives and strengths, as faculty and staff employ new technologies to extend access and enhance teaching and learning.  The Office of Learning Technologies and Online Education offers faculty the resources to make electronic learning student-centered, and a recent presentation by Business faculty member Terri Dautcher and instructional multimedia specialist Justin L’Italien astonished the members of our Alumni Association Board as Terri and Justin demonstrated the electronic interactivity and creativity that can occur — and reminded alumni how much the face of the PSU educational experience may differ from the one they remember, even if they did not graduate all that long ago.

Five hundred of PSU’s 4000 courses last year were offered in online or hybrid format, the latter combining face-to-face and distance learning.  PSU has offered online MBA programming for a decade.  Next year several undergraduate programs will be available fully online as well as taught on the residential campus, increasing access for students.  And the online courses will be taught by the same excellent faculty members that students respect on campus, demonstrating PSU’s commitment to excellence.   In addition, the Public Relations and the Management Information teams have redesigned the website; Athletics now routinely provides live stats, live streaming, and video features; and within months, thanks to Information Technology Services and the Physical Plant, the Plymouth campus will be completely wireless.

The passport refers to internationalization, as students are prepared to live and work in a diverse world and global economy.  This autumn, deans Trent Boggess, Gail Mears, and Cynthia Vascak travelled to China to attend an international fair and develop international agreements; and Peng-Khuan Chong, chair of the department of Social Science, and Dean Vascak confirmed mutual agreements with Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) and Sunway University in Malaysia.  These important relationships allow for increased long- and short-term study abroad opportunities, collaborative research projects, and student and faculty exchanges, all of which benefit students and open doorways to the world.  With these agreements, PSU is now on all continents except Antarctica (and recently has been there as well with graduate student research).  Winterim courses offered students lower-cost, short-term experiences in China and the Andes.

The ELS Language Center is bringing international students here, with the most complete English-language study center north of Boston; and this summer Mary Lyon Hall will be further remodeled to add an international center.  One of the nation’s most successful US-Pakistani partnerships is the Pakistani Educational Leadership Project, directed by Blake Allen and offered through the College of Graduate Studies, sponsored by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  This past summer, and each summer for nearly a decade, educators from Pakistan have joined us to learn about educational innovation and return to Pakistan to lead projects and train master teachers.  In the process, they have broadened our world.

Technology and globalization work hand-in-hand with relocalization, as students learn to make their region more sustainable, thus making a global difference.  Guided by Brian Eisenhauer, director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability, students developed a sustainability handbook and taught and took permaculture classes.  Some studied over spring break in Costa Rica.  Students in the EcoHouse, a residence hall that is also a laboratory for experiments with sustainable design and alternative energy and technologies, built an EcoShed as a hands-on lesson in sustainable living.  The shed, the first student-built campus building, will be used for storage; it also will collect rainwater for the garden and the “living roof” will provide vegetables.

PSU has received regional and national attention this year for sustainability, placing second in New Hampshire and twenty-fifth out of schools nationwide in waste minimization in the Recyclemania competition, and again being recognized in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 311 Green Colleges as one of the most environmentally responsible institutions of higher education in North America, based on factors such as environmental literacy, energy efficient construction, use of renewable resources, and recycling and conservation.  These efforts have been embraced across campus.  Business NH Magazine awarded the Savage Welcome Center and Hanaway Rink the 2011 Lean and Green Building Award, recognizing the arena for design and construction incorporating cost containment and sustainability, noting the savings and energy efficiency of its closed loop geothermal heating and cooling system.

It is especially fitting that Plymouth State now has an endowed professorship in environmental studies, to provide funding for research and enhanced classroom teaching.  Janice C. Griffith, a law professor at Suffolk University and a former student of a Plymouth State alumna, has honored her teacher and mentor, Helen Abbott, by establishing the Helen Abbott ’39 Professorship in Environmental Studies to recognize Mrs. Abbott for her role in Griffith’s life and for her creativity in educating youth in Union, New Hampshire for more than 50 years about environmental and ecological issues.  It is wonderful to have this ongoing link between past and future, and we are grateful to Janice, as we are to Ed and Marilyn Wixson and to Wally and Meredith Bristow Stevens, who have established previous professorships.

Active learning is integrated with research, scholarship, and creativity.  Last spring, 29 students discussed their research into subjects as diverse as horseshoe crabs, climate change, and nineteenth-century midwives at PSU’s inaugural Scientific Research Symposium.  The projects were funded in part by the National Institutes of Health’s IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, from which PSU received 3 of New Hampshire’s 12 grants.  Following that event was the Student Showcase of Excellence, with undergraduates from fields across campus sharing their creativity through posters, video presentations, demonstrations, even an originally choreographed dance performance.  It was a joy, and this year’s Showcase is scheduled for April 27th and 28th.

PSU also has seen an increase in funding through sponsored programs, surpassing the previous mark in awards this year, with over $3.6 million in new authorizations.  Topics range from early childhood learning to improving balance in aging adults, from a celebration of the centennial of the Weeks Act establishing America’s first national forest here in the White Mountains to a study of current concentrations of aluminum in surface and ground water there, from lake sediment in Iceland to tourism research and photo preservation.  And Provost Julie Bernier’s regular reports to the campus confirm the high quality of creativity across the disciplines, whether or not the fields have significant access to external funding.

Active hands-on learning is also seen through community engagement:  applying knowledge and making a difference.  For the second year, student diversity fellows hosted a regional Native American Powwow. Students taking alternative spring breaks traveled to work on service projects across the country.  Anne Jung, Lamson’s outreach librarian, invited area school students preparing for National History Day to the Lamson Learning Commons to learn about research tools.  The President’s Commission on the Status of Women hosted a New Hampshire Young Women’s Conference, with sessions on using social media safely, leadership, and making healthy choices.  Students on athletic teams, in Criminal Justice, in English, in Art, and more, made a difference in area schools, courts, and agencies.  Through service learning and volunteering through the Community Service Center led by Linda Corriveau, PSU students contributed nearly 250,000 hours to service.  PSU received the Communities for Alcohol and Drug-Free Youth (CADY) 2011 Partner of the Year award for work in central New Hampshire promoting promising futures for young people, and was named for the fifth consecutive year to the federal President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

Let me provide a few samples of this year’s achievements from across PSU:

  • Katie Laro (Meteorology) was selected by the Council for Undergraduate Research as one of 73 students from over 850 applicants to present a poster on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC next month.  Katie’s research, guided by faculty member Jim Koermer (Atmospheric Science and Chemistry), treats wind gusts associated with thunderstorms.
  • Undergraduates Michael Dodge and Molly Finkel (Music, Theatre, and Dance) have won honors in vocal and instrumental competition, Michael in the National Association of Teachers of Singing’s Boston Art Song and Aria Festival and Molly in the New England College Band Association’s first Solo and Ensemble Contest.
  • Undergraduate Courtney LeCours (Health and Human Performance) has been named the Outstanding Future Professional by the New Hampshire Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance; and alumnus Chris Belmont ’01, now teaching in Massachusetts, received the National High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
  • Twelve students who participated in the Brown Company Research & Development Building public mural project were honored as the inaugural recipients of the Young Preservationists Award from the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance.  Working with Tom Driscoll (Art) and a series of partners, they created 24 murals illustrating the history of the Brown Company in Berlin.
  • Graduate students guided by Craig Zamzow (Business) received two first-place honors in the 2012 National Small Business Institute Case of the Year Competition, with student teams earning first place for their plans for New Hampshire businesses in both the Comprehensive Case and the Specialized Case categories.
  • In Athletic highlights, Josh Duford (Childhood Studies) was named to the Capital One Academic All-District First Team for his performance as a football student-athlete; Christian Mulcahy (Business Administration) received the New England Football Writers’ Gridiron Club of Greater Boston Gold Helmet Award for his performance; Stephanie Newmark (Sports Management) competed at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships representing Australia; wrestler Mike Willey (Management) captured his second New England wrestling championship and competed in NCAA Division III National Championships; men’s hockey won the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) championship and played in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament; and first-year volleyball coach Chris Kilmer was named Little East Conference Coach of the Year and men’s hockey coach Craig Russell MASCAC Coach of the Year.
  • Pat Cantor, chair of the department of Early Childhood Studies, and Steve Barba, Executive Director of University Relations, were honored by Early Learning NH with 2011 Champion Awards for their work on behalf of initiatives to ensure that the state’s children have access to high-quality early care and education.
  • Irene Cucina (Health and Human Performance) was elected President of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, a 20,000-member organization for physical education, recreation, fitness, sport and coaching, dance, health education, and health promotion.
  • Thad Guldbrandsen, founding director of the Center for Rural Partnerships, interim coordinator of the White Mountains Institute, and recently named Vice Provost for Research and Engagement, received the 2011 Young Professional of the Year award from Business NH Magazine. The award honors him as an outstanding professional and acknowledges his success working with students, colleagues, and partners on behalf of rural communities.
  • Kathi Weeks (Business Services) was honored by the New Hampshire National Guard with the Outstanding in Customer Services Peace Award as a result of her ongoing commitment to excellence in student services to US soldiers.

In what has been discussed, I often have noted partnerships, because partnerships are critical.  As a comprehensive university, we are a university of place; part of our mission is to make our region better, “extending to communities partnership opportunities for cultural enrichment and economic development,” with a special responsibility to the Lakes Region and the North Country.   Partnering with business, government, non-profits, and schools also extends our reach and enables PSU to do good work and provide wonderful opportunities.  Think of the Educational Theatre Collaborative‘s original production of The Wild Swans, with an intergenerational student and community cast of a hundred, an arts festival for young people, and another for teachers.  Or, knowing the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education in New Hampshire, think of Natalya Vinogradova (Mathematics) leading the INTEL-funded statewide initiative to improve student learning in mathematics; the Mathematics department hosting 600 high school students for a math competition and later in the week 400 math teachers for a conference; Dennis Machnik (Atmospheric Science and Chemistry) taking planetarium shows to hundreds of children in the schools; Chris Drever (ITS) guiding high school students to the national FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competition; or Cheryl Baker (College of Graduate Studies) leading the Rural School Educator Effectiveness Collaborative providing professional development for teachers in math, science, and language arts.

Think, too, of cooperative projects associated with the Center for the Environment, the Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities, and the Center for Rural Partnerships — PSU’s intersecting threads of healthy places, healthy people, and healthy economies —  such as research on regional waters and watersheds, an eco-learning farmstand with teaching gardens, or the community research experience course in which the Center for Rural Partnerships and the Institute for New Hampshire Studies provide students with consultancies, working with area businesses and non-profits.  Last week I attended the annual meeting at which colleagues from PSU and the White Mountain National Forest discussed collaborative projects, most involving students; you would have been impressed by the range and diversity of the projects.

PSU initiatives are moving forward, and you should know of the progress each is making.

As PSU extends educational access to new audiences through online undergraduate and graduate programs, we also think strategically about exciting advances for the residential campus, about what will make the University even more distinctive in the future.  One of those features is a wonderful location for learning at the gateway to the White Mountains, which faculty and staff are celebrating in the White Mountains Institute, an interdisciplinary institute that offers specialized programs, often with regional partners; enhances summer use of facilities; will recruit talented students and future students; and allow us to become known as the premier place for teaching and research associated with the White Mountains.  This summer’s schedule of short-term programs for children and adults, students, and interested others is exciting.

The Highland Street facility for the Museum of the White Mountains is being renovated, with construction just under way.  The Museum, directed by Catherine Amidon, has hosted its second exhibit, of photographer Guy Shorey’s works; is actively making teaching and research materials from the collection available virtually, and will open the bricks-and-mortar facility next winter.

The Enterprise Center at Plymouth is a business incubator and accelerator, a partnership between the Grafton County Economic Development Council (GCEDC) and the College of Business Administration.  The GCEDC is raising the funds for construction of the facility on Main Street at the roundabout and has received grants from the Economic Development Administration and from New Hampshire.  PSU is hiring the faculty member who will serve as executive director, leading the business programming with faculty and students.   This year PSU received the GCEDC’s Partner of the Year Award, recognizing PSU’s impact on economic development.

The Active Living, Learning, and Wellness (ALLWell) Center, a project to advance teaching, research, athletics and recreation, and community programming, also is moving forward.  The project is a top capital priority of the University System of New Hampshire in its report to the legislature, and PSU’s divisions of Finance and Administration and of University Advancement are making plans, as are the departments of Health and Human Performance and of Athletics.  From the success of the first phase, the Savage Welcome Center and Hanaway Rink, we see the difference that strong facilities can make, impacting students and the region.  When its multiple phases eventually are completed, the effect on PSU and on the health and wellness of central New Hampshire will be transformative.

In sum, then, PSU is innovative, vibrant, and focused on student success.  All of you know, however, that PSU has faced and does face challenges.

First is a financial challenge in the loss of state appropriation.  New Hampshire last year was in deficit, and struggling like most states across the country.  When the Governor made his budget recommendations, he held the University System of New Hampshire’s appropriation to 95 percent of its previous amount.  We anticipated that the legislature might lower that number and worked to model reductions at varied levels.  It was good that we had done so: the legislature reduced the USNH appropriation by 48.6 percent, one of the highest single-year percentage reductions in the history of US public higher education.  Because New Hampshire already was 50th in its support of public higher education, however, that loss was lower in actual dollars than the reductions for many public institutions in other states.  For PSU, the loss was $6.7 million.

Our goal was to put people first, not to have students and their families handle all of the burden, or our faculty and staff.  We hoped to avoid mandatory furloughs or layoffs, and we achieved that.  There were no simple answers because PSU long has engaged in prudent management.  The budget process was a complex one involving many people, from Vice President of Finance and Administration Steve Taksar and his team to the Planning and Budgeting Leadership Group, the System Personnel Policy Council, and the many individuals who sent forward creative ideas.

To balance the budget, we reduced expenditures and increased revenues through higher enrollments from new programs such as Nursing and a supplemental tuition increase.  The supplemental tuition increase was $710 for New Hampshire residents.  That meant a total price of attendance increase of 9.7 percent for New Hampshire residents and 4 percent for non-residents.  Thinking of students and families, we also built into the budget a 28 percent increase in undergraduate financial aid to help the neediest students.  On campus, we eliminated vacant positions and transferred responsibilities, reduced the cost of benefits for full-time employees, and offered separation incentive plans for faculty and staff.  We made operational changes.  We deferred some planned investments, but made others that will allow PSU to continue to succeed.

A related challenge is demographic, as the projected decline in the number of traditional-age high school graduates in this region is beginning to appear.  We are looking to other audiences, to states and countries where the demographics are the reverse of ours and talented young people cannot find places in higher education programs, and to adults and place-bound students through online education.   The economy has complicated decisions for resident and non-resident students and their families.

Our mission is education.  If we are to focus on access and success, keep tuition increases as low as possible, and compensate employees fairly, it will be important that we diversify revenue streams through sponsored programs, partnerships, and advancement efforts.  Like most public institutions that have come to fundraising later than private schools, we are working to grow the Advancement division and, under the leadership of Vice President of University Advancement Sally Holland and with the support of the President’s Council, to enhance efforts to raise funds for scholarships, professional development, and capital projects, through endowments and annual funds for current use.

Another challenge this year was meteorological:  a flood that put the Holderness side of the campus under water.  We had received warning about what became Tropical Storm Irene a few days before Move-In and chose to delay the opening of the semester.  After the Pemi flooded, many of us surveyed the damage by boat.  Student leaders already on campus staffed the HUB as an emergency shelter for displaced neighboring families, played with children, and found space for dogs, cats, even a ferret; the community offered medical care and support.  Amazingly, the waters receded as quickly as they had risen, and everyone — Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, and especially the Physical Plant — stepped up to ensure a smooth opening to the year.  Collaboration with our host communities of Holderness and Plymouth and with state officials and agencies during this difficult time was extraordinary. We are in that very fortunate.

The campus has accomplished much and has much on the agenda for next year.  We will complete the NEASC self-study, a huge undertaking led by Nancy Betchart, dean of the Frost School, in preparation for our NEASC accreditation visit in the autumn of 2013.  We will be using that self-assessment of where we are to move forward with the strategic planning by which we will decide where we want to be.  This summer, discussion of the next 10-year facilities master plan will begin.

As we move toward commencement, our first integrated undergraduate and graduate commencement, at least for many years, and the hooding of our first doctoral students, we think of students and families, of their joy and pride.  Similarly, we saw joy and pride from students, staff, faculty, and community as the men’s hockey team for the first time won the MASCAC championship and played well in the NCAA Division III tournament, earning national rank.  As the team skated from the ice for the final time this season, student fans cheered, and chanted “Thank you, Plymouth.”  By the end of composing this address, I feel the same way about this institution: proud of you and grateful to be among you.  Thank you, Plymouth.

 

 

Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Regarding HB 334

February 8th, 2012 by Jennifer Philion

Senate Judiciary Committee HB 334
26 January 2012
State House Room 100

 Testimony by Sara Jayne Steen
President, Plymouth State University

Today I speak on behalf of the University System of New Hampshire’s institutions in opposition to HB 334. Recently two individuals wanted to protest University System of New Hampshire policy against weapons by carrying loaded slung rifles on the Plymouth State campus. Through the web, they invited others to join them, armed. A few dozen supporters came, as far as we know unarmed because of a court order.

Our campuses take safety seriously. And there are important reasons not to have guns on campus beyond those carried by trained police. Tragic accidents. Anxiety, stress, or depression leading to impulsive actions that, with a readily available lethal weapon, result in suicide and violence that otherwise would never have occurred, destroying families. Hundreds of students under one roof, with attendant pressures. In a crisis, confusion for police. And damage to a learning environment in which students are encouraged to explore ideas and engage in debate of varied opinions, without intimidation.

PSU is the home of students, and a place of learning. We have 7500 undergraduate and graduate students, wonderful faculty who promote academic excellence, a beautiful campus, and a community committed to mutually respectful dialogue.

And in December I heard from hundreds of people in response to the violation of our weapons policy and this proposed legislation, overwhelmingly opposed. Some students spoke of having known gun violence, even having lost family members. Students spoke of being angry and uncomfortable about weapons on campus and not wanting deadly weapons there. They spoke of being paying students who should be free from worry about weapons. Student Senate hosted a forum to address concerns. Some students and faculty held a silent vigil; others hosted a letter-writing campaign; some chose not to come to campus. One student had a panic attack during the protest. Parents spoke of their deep concern for their sons and daughters. They spoke of why guns do not belong on campuses, and they did so with emotion and anxiety. Some parents asked their students to leave campus that day and indicated that they would want their students to transfer out of New Hampshire if the state allows weapons on its public campuses. Some students, too, said they would leave New Hampshire, at a time when the state is encouraging them to stay and contribute to the state’s future economy and workforce.

Local control matters. At PSU, the elected Student Senate passed a resolution supporting our right “to enact policies regarding the use and possession of firearms on campus . . . to protect the safety of the students,” as did the faculty in a recent meeting, as did the Community-University Task Force, which includes the leadership of the Plymouth and the Plymouth State Police Departments, town citizens and businesspeople, me as University President, and the Chair of the Town of Plymouth Select Board.

I urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to oppose this legislation.

Testimony before the House Education Committee Regarding HB 1692

February 7th, 2012 by Jennifer Philion

House Education Committee HB 1692
25 January 2012
Legislative Office Building, Room 207

Testimony by Sara Jayne Steen
President of Plymouth State University

Chairman Balboni and members of the Education Committee, thank you for the opportunity to address you today. I am Sara Jayne Steen, President of Plymouth State University.

Plymouth State University is a regional comprehensive university of approximately 7,500 students. We provide well-educated graduates for New Hampshire’s workforce, ongoing opportunities for graduate education and professional development, research and creativity that directly benefit the state, and partnerships for cultural enrichment and economic development. Extraordinary programs attract students from New Hampshire and around the world and are crucial to New Hampshire’s ongoing competitiveness and future quality of life. Like you, we believe in partnerships and academic excellence, and we are committed to making New Hampshire a better place to live, to learn, and to earn.

Like my colleagues here today, I oppose HB 1692 to restructure the state’s public higher education system.

The university system and its campuses are achieving excellence and doing so cost-effectively. When I came to New Hampshire almost six years ago, I knew that the level of state support was the lowest in the nation, but I also could see what Plymouth State and other USNH campuses had been accomplishing by working together and in partnership with the state through, for example, the Knowledge Economy Education Plan (KEEP), a system-wide initiative led by the Chancellor and supported by the General Court. Repeatedly our campuses and system have received recognition for excellence and demonstrated an ability to be innovative on behalf of the state in developing programs and partnerships, and repeatedly our campuses and system have been shown to be operating below the costs of our comparators. The Board of Trustees exercises its fiduciary responsiblity carefully. We agree with your concern for increased institutional autonomy and have been collaborating on a plan to that end, again being mindful of cost-effectiveness.

The bill’s sponsors assume financial savings for the campuses, but there also are costs. Plymouth State University benefits from shared services at the system level, and there are economies of scale in, for example, treasury and investment among other functions. Should the system office be reduced as proposed in this bill, Plymouth State and the other campuses will have to replicate system support and maintain the high level of quality and accountability. For PSU, that will entail costs and additional employees at a time when our appropriation has been reduced by 48%. In some cases the shift is likely to introduce additional costs. The move toward increased institutional autonomy on which the Board is moving will allow USNH campuses to be even more nimble, but such a transition must be done carefully. Looking to economy of scale and appropriate system services is prudent management.

Part of the genius of the General Court’s creation of the University System was in providing the Board with the authority to respond to changing circumstances, as the members of the Board of Trustees are doing now, working with the Chancellor and the campus leadership teams. I urge you to allow the Board of Trustees to do what it has done for approximately 50 years: respond reasonably and responsibly to changing circumstances and direct a system of public higher education of which New Hampshire can be proud.

Plymouth’s Excellence in Its People

August 24th, 2011 by Jennifer Philion

Faculty Week Address
President Sara Jayne Steen
Plymouth State University, August 24, 2011

 

Good morning, colleagues. It is wonderful to see everyone and feel the energy on campus pick up as new faculty members and their department chairs enjoy dinner outside Mary Lyon, student athletes begin practice, and student leaders laugh in the sunshine and wave at administrators. Last week, someone told me that I’m still a 6-year-old getting a new goldenrod tablet at the start of school–which is partly true, though the image makes me feel only slightly younger than if the comment had involved a slate. I know that many of you also find this a joyous time of year, a time of new beginnings and engaging interactions with colleagues and students. Today we focus on our joint enterprise in a thoughtful and structured way that faculty at most universities can only imagine. Truly, it is an honor to welcome you today.

Let me start with budget and enrollment updates. Obviously the legislative session was difficult and disappointing. Executive Director of University Relations Steve Barba tracked 88 bills affecting our students and programs, the most public of which was our appropriation. As you know, the University System of New Hampshire in June received a 48 percent reduction in state appropriation, which Chancellor MacKay notes was the second highest percentage reduction in the country. Because New Hampshire was 50th in its support of public higher education, however, that loss was lower in actual dollars than the reductions for many public institutions in other states. For PSU, the loss was between $6 and $7M, or 6-7 percent of our budget. As Vice President of Finance Steve Taksar says, it’s the equivalent of the tuition and fees of almost 700 students. We needed to balance the budget recognizing that there is no reason to believe that in New Hampshire–or nationally–the funding lost to public higher education this year will quickly be restored.

Our goal was to put people first, not to have our students and their families handle all the burden, or our faculty and staff. We hoped to avoid mandatory furloughs or staff layoffs, and we achieved that. Balancing the budget was a complex process involving many people, from Steve Taksar and his team to the Planning and Budgeting Leadership Group, the members of the System Personnel Policy Council, and the many individuals who brought forward creative ideas. Thank you to all.

To balance the budget, we reduced expenditures and increased revenues through additional tuition. We held off salary increases. This year’s benefits reduction directly returned dollars to the campus in the form of a lowered benefits rate. Faculty and staff separation incentive plans and time reductions lowered our ongoing base costs, and operational efficiencies such as not providing cell phones contributed. As you well know, we have left some positions vacant and reduced or delayed some planned investments, though we are continuing to make strategic one-time investments that will allow us to emerge as a university even more focused on mission and to continue to succeed.

Access and affordability are huge issues for public higher education. Education is what we believe in, and many of us are the first in our families to attend college: we know what education means for lives extending into generations. After the legislature completed its budget reductions, PSU increased the cost of attendance for New Hampshire residents by $710, for a total increase between February and June of approximately 9.7 percent, a rate that is not sustainable. We will this year be working to keep any further increases very low. Knowing what this meant for students and families, we also increased financial aid for our neediest students by 28 percent this year (after increasing it 12 percent and 14 percent in the two previous years). Just to remind you, the cost of undergraduate attendance is now $20K for New Hampshire residents and $28K for non-residents, and our graduates leave with an average debt of $30K, meaning that some have none and others more.

Thanks to strong admissions efforts, we received 6000 applications from potential new students, and early reports indicate that we will slightly exceed our enrollment projection, although it is too early to accurately predict. Not surprisingly, slightly more students are staying in state or transferring from the community colleges, taking us to 41 percent non-resident and 59 percent resident undergraduates, a 1 percent increase in residential students over two years. Incoming students had a slightly higher profile in math, one predictor of academic success. The good news is that resident and non-resident students continue to be attracted to the academic excellence that PSU provides. Online studies have increased, graduate enrollments are stable, and the new nursing program has attracted 92 happy and excited students.

We want to bring faculty and staff compensation to the level of comparators and above, but you will not be surprised that the cabinet and I are delaying any decision on salary increases until we know more about enrollment. As hires are delayed or vacancies restructured, faculty and staff are taking on additional responsibilities, and I hope we can reward and reclassify staff soon.

Vacancies sometimes create other issues as well; for example, with Carol Kuzdeba’s retirement this summer, two of the three top Human Resources positions would be unfilled and one interim. Elaine Doell has been an extraordinary leader in a difficult time, and we need internal stability for PSU employees. As a result I have asked her to serve as director, to hire someone as soon as possible to succeed Carol, and to hold the third position vacant for now. A formal announcement will be going out soon.

There are other personnel shifts this year. As a result of serious family issues, former Vice President for Student Affairs Rick Barth returned to Alabama a few weeks after commencement. A search is beginning, to be chaired by Steve Taksar. In the meantime, the Student Affairs Leadership Team includes Assistant Vice President of Student Life Terri Potter; Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Cocchiarella; Dean of Students Tim Keefe; and Coordinator of Recruiting and former Vice President Dick Hage (and I am grateful to Dick for his post-retirement commitment to PSU). There was realignment in Student Affairs last spring, so if you have questions about whom to contact on an issue, call Darlene Brill in the Student Affairs Office.

One of our investments has been in Advancement, an area increasingly important. For those of you who have not met her–most of you, since she has been here all of three and a half weeks–I’m pleased to introduce Sally Holland, Vice President for University Advancement, who recently joined us after a search led by Executive Director Steve Barba. Most recently, Sally has been at the University of Delaware; she also was Director of Development at Williams and Vice President at Middlebury–and we have lured her home to New Hampshire. (She has an undergraduate degree from UNH and worked with the Appalachian Mountain Club.) And I would like to extend my thanks to Laure Morris for her wonderful work as interim director of University Advancement through the spring and summer.

In upcoming weeks, you will see more of Sally, as she attends meetings and learns about your programs. University Advancement will be working to increase annual funds for current use to replace some of our reduction in state appropriation; to develop scholarships and support for faculty and staff; and to support capital projects–and the academic deans will be closely involved. ALLWell (the Center for Active Living, Learning, and Wellness) is the University System of New Hampshire’s top priority with the Capital Projects Committee of the legislature, and support for Capital Projects has been a huge state contribution toward our success–witness the Silver Center and Boyd Hall. The USNH plan is that each campus raises 20 percent toward our buildings from internal reallocation or private sources, even those academic buildings supported by the state, so Advancement’s role there too will be significant. Planning toward ALLWell phase 2 has begun, and plans for the first phase of the Museum of the White Mountains are being finalized. Both facilities will offer wonderful opportunities for teaching, research, and engagement, affecting students and faculty across many disciplines and creating powerful connections with the region.

Starting today, you will be engaging with the academic deans in a conversation about the future, and our future–important explorations in innovation. If learning increasingly will be available in many different forms, the residential campuses that thrive will have thought about how they are distinctive and created meaningful long-term academic plans. This year will be a natural time for reflection and discussion, because we are assessing the University and preparing for the NEASC review in 2013. As someone who is now a NEASC review team chair, I know how much work is involved for a campus. Thanks to many of you for the work in which you already have engaged and will engage. This year we will strategize about the planning process and place the active process more clearly in sync with our NEASC accreditation reviews.

Among other initiatives for this year is emergency planning. The campus has, thanks to IT and Public Relations, an updated emergency messaging system. Please be sure you are registered to receive messages. And although our last emergency plan was developed only a few years ago, it should be updated, and each of you should know how to react in a crisis so we are a team.

Last year was a difficult one in terms of our ongoing relationship with our host community of Plymouth, and I am asking this year for a renewed emphasis on community relations. A 1913 issue of the student paper, The Prospect, recalls the Teachers’ Seminary that preceded us on this site. According to the article, in 1839 three dozen subjects from intellectual arithmetic to mollusks and the art of teaching were taught by 12 faculty to 200 students. Stage coaches were the transportation. And each student was “in conduct and deportment, to have reference to the happiness and convenience of others.” If all students had been doing so, of course, there would have been no need to say it. Student noise, for example, isn’t a new problem, but it is one on which we continually must educate students, and this year the town has an updated noise ordinance. Last year faculty member Jeremiah Duncan led a clean-up initiative, and this year several faculty members who live in Plymouth are sponsoring cookouts to help students and neighbors gather together. The Student Affairs leaders have many new activities planned, on campus and in the neighborhoods. I hope that you will let me know of other ideas and will encourage students to respect their town.

I sometimes offer long lists of honors, and I do so because I want you to have a sense of the campus achievements. For example, the Savage Welcome Center / Hanaway Rink, last year featured on the covers of Rink and College Planning and Management magazines, has been named Business NH Magazine’s Green Building for 2011. It was not easy to design a sustainable ice arena, and thanks go to many in Academic Affairs, Athletics, Finance and Administration, and the Physical Plant who created something innovative, from its geothermal wells to the technology. PSU again has been named one of the nation’s most environmentally responsible universities by The Princeton Review; and for the fourth year has been entered on the President’s Service Honor Role for civic engagement and community service, recognizing the Community Service Center and the service learning initiatives across the disciplines. Locally, PSU was recognized with the CADY Community Partner Award “in recognition and appreciation for your collaborative spirit, partnership, and leadership in support of youth substance abuse prevention.” Those awards say much about how the motto of “Ut Prosim” is lived by faculty, staff, and students.

In the final analysis, PSU is all about the excellence that faculty and staff live and inspire in students, in teaching, in scholarship, in related activities. It is about our first two EdD candidates, Cheryl Baker and June Hammond Rowan, defending their dissertations this week. Or the bright photos of graduate and undergraduate students doing research in Iceland this summer with Lisa Doner (CFE), collecting sub-bottom lake profiles and mapping the lake floor. It’s about English students teaching creative writing to middle school students in Campton and creating the young people’s first book. It’s about the breathtaking student murals on the R&D building in Berlin, bringing together students and faculty, the PSU Department of Art and Center for Rural Partnerships, and external partners. The “It Gets Better” video, initiated and produced by faculty and staff to respond to LGBT student suicides, has been viewed by tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people; one alum wrote, “This video is one more example of excellence in the people, programs and philosophy which guide PSU. … In my career it has always been about the people–and Plymouth has such good people.”

Today, three new faculty awards will be announced, and this year’s Excellence publication distributed, an important start to the academic year. Congratulations to the award-winners and to all of you for all you do. Let me now introduce Provost Bernier to begin the awards.

In Plymouth Magazine

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PSU Collaboration Leads to Emmy

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